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Caterpillar chooses Georgia for plant

Published: Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

ATLANTA – Caterpillar said Friday it plans to build a new manufacturing facility in Georgia, a project company officials say will create more than 4,200 U.S. jobs.

The 1-million-square-foot facility near Athens is expected to directly employ 1,400 workers once it’s fully operational, the company said in a statement.

Company officials said they estimate the project will create another 2,800 full-time jobs in the U.S. among suppliers and at other companies.

At a Friday news conference in Atlanta, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal described the project as the largest growth of new jobs in Georgia since a sprawling Kia Motors manufacturing facility was built.

“Georgia is proud to have built a business climate that provides the logistics, workforce, speed and efficiency that global industry leaders like Caterpillar are looking for,” Deal said.

Caterpillar already employs 3,000 people in Georgia. More than 160 suppliers are also located in Georgia, and state officials hope to lure that business in the coming months.

Georgia’s port on the Atlantic Ocean also factored into the decision, company officials said.

“The Athens site was selected from among dozens of locations considered due to its proximity to the major ports of Savannah and Charleston, a strong regional base of potential suppliers, a positive and pro-active business climate and a good pool of potential employees with manufacturing experience,” said Mary Bell, vice president of Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products division.

About 40 percent of the tractors and excavators built at the plant will be exported, primarily to South America and Western Europe, company officials said.

Georgia’s overall approach to transportation and infrastructure was also attractive, Caterpillar executives said.

In November, Peoria-based Caterpillar announced plans to shift production from Japan and open a new manufacturing facility in North America to produce small tractors and excavators. The company said its goal was to move production of the equipment closer to its customers in North America and Europe.

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