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New Caterpillar grader plant coming to Arkansas

Caterpillar Inc. will begin taking applications later this year for up to 800 jobs at a new motor grader plant in North Little Rock.

The company said it will invest $140 million in the new plant. Production of commercial motor graders is expected to begin in early 2010. Renovation will begin immediately, and management offices are already operational.

The state of Arkansas gave Caterpillar $3 million from its Quick Action Closing Fund as incentive for the plant. North Little Rock is providing a package worth more than $13 million, Mayor Patrick Hays said, though the city council must first pass the package.

The city’s incentives are largely for infrastructure, including an $8 million new power substation, an $800,000 wastewater treatment facility and the waiver of building permits worth more than $30,000. Hays emphasized that the city planned to build the power substation in 2010, but has moved plans forward to accommodate the manufacturer.

The city is also providing carbon offsets worth $2.5 million, Hays said. The city receives the offsets because of its use of hydroelectric power, he said. The company will also pay reduced electrical bills over the next five years. The electricity deal is worth more than $2 million.

Company officials said that a full line of motor graders, with the exception of its 24M motor grader, will be made at the North Little Rock facility. The graders are used to build and maintain roads, highways, airports and other construction projects.

Update: Here’s Paul Gordon of the Peoria Journal Star’s report.

Update: Arkansas Blog is on the story.

Here’s a YouTube video from this morning’s press conference.

This doesn’t appear to be a built-from-scratch facility like the one announced in late December in Sequin, Texas — the grader plant will go into a former video-production site.

The jobs number quoted is eerily similar to the number of layoffs in Mossville, though I suspect the wages and benefits will be predictably dissimilar. I’ll do some poking around to see how this affects the plant in Decatur, Illinois, which also produces motor graders. (Note: this article on the introduction of the new M series of motor graders says the 24M — the exception named above — would be built at Decatur.)

This was just posted at Yahoo’s Cat message board:

“We” were told several months ago – maybe it was back in August of ’08 – that Cat had planned to move the motor grader line out of Decatur. During the entire time since that original announcement “we” were told that the 24M – the biggest motor grader built – would remain in Decatur. The idea is that a vast majority of the 24M’s sold are sold to buyers of the larger mining trucks…including the 797 mining truck. But that the rest of the line would find a new home.

We were also told that very few, if any, of the grader jobs in Decatur would transfer to whatever new home the grader line would find. With the tractor scraper line down to one shift and small mining truck sales in the basement, one has to wonder what Cat will do with the nearly 1000 folks they threw at the Monarch series of motor graders.

Good question indeed.

More links on this Twitter search.

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Tom Mangan posted at 9:59 am January 5th, 2009 |

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