Caterpillar plant could help tourism

  • Did you know?Caterpillar's Victoria plant will triple the company's current capacity of hydraulic excavators produced in the United States.

Caterpillar's plan to build a manufacturing plant in Victoria could have a secondary economic benefit in addition to the 500 jobs it will create.

"Our dealers from around the world will often bring customers in to visit the facility where the excavators are made," said Jim Dugan, the company's chief spokesman. "That's a very common, typical thing to happen."

And Dugan said he expects the Victoria plant to be a popular destination for dealers and their customers.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "These excavators are very widely used and very popular."

Caterpillar expects to have a groundbreaking ceremony this month for a manufacturing plant that will create 500 jobs when it's fully operational in 2014.

The 600,000-square-foot plant is scheduled to begin production in mid-2012, with the company making a $120 million to $150 million investment. About 300 construction jobs could also be created.

The plant, which will manufacture five lines of hydraulic excavators, will be in the 320-acre Lone Tree Business Center.

Dale Fowler with the Victoria Economic Development Corp. said the tours would be good for Victoria's economy.

"This could be a new dimension of tourism for Victoria," he said. "It could mean increased air traffic for our airport and certainly increased hotel-motel use in our area."

Dugan said he has no way to know yet just how many visitors a year will visit the Victoria plant. He said thousands of customers visit Peoria, Ill., each year, but that's the company's headquarters, and it has a large concentration of Caterpillar facilities.

"Dealers may come in and have a group of five, 10 or 15 customers they bring in for a visit." Dugan said. "They may be one- or two-day visits."

The Victoria plant will likely have a visitors center where customers will be greeted. The center could have video capabilities and Internet service.

While the customers visit the plants to learn more about the machinery, they may also be interested in sightseeing as well.

He said, for instance, some customers like to take in a minor-league baseball game or take a paddleboat tour of the river in Peoria.

"Obviously those tours wouldn't start until the plant is up and running," Dugan said. "It might be in 2012, but I would think certainly by 2013 that would be a much more common, day-to-day activity at that facility."

Bridgette Bise with the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau said her agency would be happy to work with Caterpillar.

"We already put packages together for groups," she said. "We could tweak them and make them appropriate for any group."