Communities praise Caterpillar operations


Aug. 14, 2010 at 3:14 a.m.

Waco restaurateur Sammy Citrano said having a Caterpillar plant in that city has been a boon to the community's economy.

"There's no doubt about it," said Citrano, owner of George's Restaurant and Catering. "We're so very fortunate to have them."

Caterpillar is a great corporate neighbor, supporting everything from the chamber to businesses to schools, he said.

Caterpillar has announced it will invest $120 million to $150 million to build a plant in Victoria to manufacture five lines of hydraulic excavators. The plant will employ about 500 people when it's fully operational in 2014.

Seth Morris with the Greater Waco Chamber said he thinks Caterpillar will be a welcomed addition to Victoria.

Waco has one plant under construction, a second in operation since about 2007 and two logistics operations for storing and distributing the company's products, he said. The Waco plant makes tools for hydraulic excavators.

"They've been great," Morris said. "I would honestly say they are becoming a defining entity for the city of Waco and the greater Waco area."

Terry Trevino with the Seguin Economic Development Corp. said Caterpillar just completed a plant in that city in June. It produces engines that will be used in the excavators built in Victoria.

The plant has about 400 employees now and expects to have 1,465 when production reaches its peak in about five years.

Trevino said she's gauges the economy based on how well the sales tax is doing. It's up anywhere from 9 percent in June to 22 percent in March when other cities are facing declining numbers, she said.

"That's incredible," Trevino said. "It had to be a result of the construction."

Since Caterpillar began and completed construction of the plant, Trevino said, she's seen what she believes is a related increase in new business. That includes a new bank and new restaurants.

Trevino said there has also been in increase in the number of people looking at and taking out contracts on property in the area.

"It has to be just having the construction people here and having the employees here," she said. "It has been great."

Ben Kastein is the broker/owner of Advantage Realty Group in Naperville, Ill., which borders Aurora. Aurora has a large Caterpillar plant that produces a variety of machines, including hydraulic excavators.

Kastein said the plant has had an effect even outside of Aurora.

"Anytime you've got a company that employs a large number of people, that's definitely a good thing, especially now in a struggling economy," he said. "If it were to leave, would it have a big effect? Sure."

Joseph Henning, the chief executive officer of the Aurora chamber, said there's no doubt the plant has helped the local economy weather the recession.

"It has been good for the region because it draws from several different counties for their employment," he said. "They are probably one of the five largest employers in the city."

Besides providing jobs, the company is involved with everything from education to arts and entertainment to the business community, he said. Its employees also give back to the community in a number of ways, such as serving on boards.

"They're just very, very involved as corporate citizens," Henning said. "They're one of the strongest corporate citizens we have."



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