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Caterpillar, manufacturing key topics at annual meeting

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.
Updated Nov. 3, 2011 at 6:03 a.m.

BARRY F. LAWRENCE

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For more information on Texas A&M University's Industrial Distribution program, call 979-845-4984 or visit id.tamu.edu.

For more information on Caterpillar, visit www.cat.com.

Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., noted several of the organization's high points in 2011.

Among those was Trade and Industry Development magazine's March/April issue, which listed Victoria among its five community impact award recipients for the Caterpillar project.

The Texas Economic Development Council last month awarded Victoria a community economic development award for development of the Lone Tree Business Center, he noted, and the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center also announced Victoria as No. 1 in the state in terms of job creation.

"I would suggest that none of these accolades were by accident," Fowler said, explaining such recognition only comes to communities that emphasize foresight, planning and development.

As construction continues on Caterpillar's new hydraulic excavator plant, about 60 employees already call Victoria home, said John R. Jones, the Victoria plant's manager. Half of those are local, he said, while the other half moved from outside the region.

" ... They are all just getting excited about bringing customers down here to Victoria to see the city, to see the people, to see the plant and sell machines," he said.

Jones spoke Wednesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting, updating a packed house at the Victoria Country Club on the under-construction plant.

Hiring will likely hold where it is until the year's end, he said, with production hiring beginning soon after. As long as the economy holds out, plans are to continue a steady hiring trend until 2015.

Four buildings are under way.

An assembly building, already shelled out, will house two assembly lines and employees should be able to move in about Thanksgiving time, he said. An office complex should be complete in December, he noted, while both a 50,000-square-foot quality building and a 200,000-square-foot fabrications and machining building are also in the works.

Caterpillar should move into its permanent office by the second week of January or so, he added.

A rail yard at the back of the plant is also in its development stages, Jones said, while conceptual layouts will take even more space at the business park.

"It looks like we're going to more than fill up that 320 acres over a period of time as we look at our long-term objectives," he said. "I said, 'Just keep 'em going because while I'm building, I like to build them all together.'"

Studies are under way with eight to 10 Caterpillar suppliers looking at locating in the region, Jones noted.

F. Barry Lawrence, program director with Texas A&M University's Industrial Distribution Program, also spoke during the meeting about ways to bring manufacturing home.

A&M's Industrial Distribution Program has a consortium in the works which will bring public and private entities together, provide analysis and assist economic development groups in carrying on conversations with potential manufacturers.

Proper research is important, Lawrence said, noting companies must take into consideration the potential revenue they would generate, the costs they would face and more. The key is to keep them informed, so that they can make educated decisions and avoid unhappy surprises.

"If they come in with weak knowledge and they get surprised, that hits the wire and your community gets taken off the list."

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