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Caterpillar plant means more business for Crossroads companies

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 18, 2012 at 3:18 a.m.
Updated Aug. 19, 2012 at 3:19 a.m.

Caterpillar assembly line

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With Victoria's Caterpillar plant now open and initial excavators off assembly lines, things are booming at the new location. But that activity doesn't end with Caterpillar.

Other Victoria companies feel the effects of the newly-opened plant.

HOLT CAT, a Caterpillar dealer with a Victoria site, sees a direct impact from the new location, said Howard Hicks, HOLT CAT's vice president of public affairs.

Hicks works in the company's regional office in San Antonio, which covers 118 counties, including Victoria.

Not only does the plant give HOLT CAT a place to take customers on company tours, but the added supply also helps.

Hydraulic excavators are the products the company has the hardest time finding available because much of Caterpillar's supply was built in Japan. Shipping time added to the wait, he said, noting most came in through a port in Washington.

Now, he said, the longest delivery drive will be about 200 miles, to Dallas or the Rio Grande Valley.

It helps that its most in-demand excavator - the 336, the prime machine for Eagle Ford Shale activity - is the one the company will produce first.

"It's very timely for us," Hicks said, noting Victoria's HOLT CAT might eventually become a place the company can prep the excavators and store them before shipping to customers.

Victoria's plant also knocks $5,000 or more off the price per machine because freight costs are down, he said.

"It adds up in a hurry," Hicks said. "Over the next few years, we'll probably save several hundred thousands of dollars."

Clegg Services provided exhaust extraction, platforms and specialized fixtures for the plant, said John Clegg, the company's vice president. While it meant about 20 new jobs on his end, he said the effects flow down.

His company needed hard hats, boots and other supplies, he said, explaining they purchased those locally. Some equipment also came from Sunbelt Rentals.

"That job has put a lot of people to work," Clegg said. "Even the big contractors have used a lot of Victoria people."

Victoria Air Conditioning, Ltd. is one example.

In addition to the work the air conditioning company does on Caterpillar's systems, Clayco, the project's contractor, also hired it to construct buildings, Warren Heilker, Victoria Air's chief estimator, said in an email.

The project is one of the largest, by building size, that they've worked on, he said.

"Construction of the new plant has directly and indirectly benefited the local economy, and I expect the plant and support business to be a continuing economic boom for the area," Heilker said in the email. "This will provide real opportunities for our community."

One other Crossroads company, High Brehm Hats and Western Wear, has a contract to supply Caterpillar with steel-toed boots, owner Kelly High said.

Although he did not know exactly how many extra sales that meant, he said he thought each employee required boots.

Caterpillar employs about 200 people - for now, said John Jones, the plant's site manager.

The store appreciates any infusion of business, High said, whether one pair of boots or 500. And, just because it won the contract, it doesn't mean the job is done.

"We're learning something new every day with them and what their employees like and dislike," he said. "We tried our hardest to earn their business and now we're trying to keep it. It's an ongoing work."

Related stories:

Victoria's Caterpillar plant revs up production, click HERE

Victoria College, Caterpillar team up for training, click HERE

Seguin plant builds 25,000th engine, click HERE

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