Caterpillar Grows in Weak Times

Despite a painful slowdown across multiple sectors in the building and construction industries, Caterpillar is inching along.

The Peoria, Illinois-based manufacturer of iconic yellow tractors may hire hundreds of engineers and designers to work in a planned 100-acre research and development facility and manufacturing plant in Raleigh, North Carolina. The new facility would develop prototype products for the Caterpillar line of machines and engines.

The company may also boost its 700-strong North Carolina workforce by hiring at the Cary, Clayton, and Sanford locations.

In addition, Caterpillar has plans to open a parts distribution center in Waco, Texas, while closing two small distribution centers in Dallas and Kansas City by early 2009. The company will hire about 180 people to work in the new 500,000-square-foot Waco facility. According to Caterpillar spokesperson Rachel Potts, the company is moving the work to the Waco facility to meet warehouse and transportation needs.

Economic Soft Landing?

“The combination of what the Fed has done — a little late maybe, but very aggressively addressing the softening economy and what the federal government has just done with the stimulus package — kind of assures that we’re going to have a soft landing,” Caterpillar chairman and chief executive officer Jim Owens recently told Reuters.

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“Whether it’s a mild recession or just a significant slowdown is not so important to me,” he said. “But the re-acceleration of growth later in the year going into ’09, ’10, I think, is a likely occurrence now.”

Owens pointed out that despite a soft U.S. economy, international growth matters most right now for the national economy.

Caterpillar, which manufactures construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines, brought in over $44 billion in 2007. For 2007, Caterpillar exported more than $12.676 billion of products from the United States, a 20% increase compared to 2006 exports of $10.539 billion.

The company has more than 100,000 workers worldwide. It also has plants in Lafayette, Indiana; Aurora, Illinois; and China.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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