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Caterpillar presents update to Victoria business leaders

By ALLISON MILES
Jan. 15, 2013 at 3:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 15, 2013 at 7:16 p.m.

Tiffany Rigby offers an update on Caterpillar's Victoria hydraulic excavator facility during a Tuesday morning Victoria Partnership meeting. The plant currently employs 457 people, she said, and production is under way on two excavator models.

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For more information about Caterpillar, visit the Caterpillar website.

A timeline of Victoria's Caterpillar plant:

• May 2010: Caterpillar announces it is looking to construct an excavator facility in the United States.

• August 2010: Caterpillar announces Victoria as its chosen location.

• April 2011: Company breaks ground and begins construction on Victoria plant.

• June 2011: Company announces a $70 million expansion for the Victoria project, adding to the initial $130 million investment proposed

• March 2012: Completed construction on the 1.1 million-square-foot plant, which sits on 160 acres.

• April 2012: Began production on the 336 assembly line, with the first assembly following shortly after.

• August 2012: Company hosts on-site grand opening ceremony.

• October 2012: First completed 320E models come off the line.

Source: Tiffany Rigby, communications and public affairs manager, and Advocate records

Dirt isn't the only thing moving after the opening of Caterpillar's Victoria hydraulic excavation facility. The plant itself continues moving forward.

Tiffany Rigby, the plant's communications and public affairs manager, presented a Caterpillar update Tuesday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s Victoria Partnership meeting.

The plant employs 457 people, Rigby said. While the majority are Caterpillar employees, about 100 are contract workers.

She said Caterpillar is hiring and expects to reach 800 workers within a couple of years once at full production.

Two excavator models - the 336 and 320E - are already coming off the assembly lines, she said. At full force, the plant will manufacture models ranging from the 312 to 349.

In Caterpillar's company code, she said, the number 3 indicates the product is an excavator, while the other numbers indicate the model's weight in metric tons.

Rigby said the company hopes to be proactive community members and, in 2012, donated to more than 40 Crossroads organizations.

Employees contributed $30,000 to Victoria County United Way, she said, while $60,000 in Caterpillar Foundation grants went to Victoria nonprofit groups.

Caterpillar incorporated green elements into its Victoria site, she explained, such as motion sensor lighting and outdoor ponds that collect rainwater the company uses in sprinkler systems.

The goal is to operate as a zero-waste facility, Rigby said, meaning that 90 percent or more of its waste must be recycled. Since the program began, she said, the plant has consistently recycled 95 to 96 percent of waste, including wood pallets, steel scraps, aluminum and more.

Jerry James, the city of Victoria's director of intergovernmental relations, said he has seen firsthand the company's work to lower its waste stream.

Caterpillar hired someone to monitor such issues full time, he said, noting the company not only recycles but also takes wood to the city's compost site and implements environmentally friendly practices during manufacturing.

"I mean, it's real," James said. "And we appreciate it."

Rigby said Caterpillar's visitors and tours program began in September, and through December, about 150 visitors from outside Victoria have already made their way through. Already, two to three visitors per week are scheduled through April, she said, noting the company expects about 1,000 visitors to venture through the plant's doors this year.

Such tours allow Caterpillar to sell its product and show off Victoria, she said, but also means increased revenue in hotels, transportation, food and tourism for the city.

"So it's kind of a good win-win all around," she said.

As Rigby wrapped up the presentation, Dale Fowler, the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s president, offered up another question. Texas is very competitive, he said, and Waco has four Caterpillar plants.

"We only have one," he said with a laugh. "Can we work on that?"

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