Obama Digs Caterpillar Stimulus Plan

Company promises to rehire laid-off workers

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- President Barack Obama has told Caterpillar Inc. employees in central Illinois that they have a role to play in his economic stimulus package.

Obama said Thursday afternoon that his nearly $800 billion proposal will create infrastructure projects such as building wind turbines, classrooms, bridges and roads.

He said Peoria-based Caterpillar will be the one selling the equipment to do that work, and he urged employees to think of the economic recovery in terms of years, rather than months.

Caterpillar employees lined up for hours for a chance to hear Obama pitch his plan.

Most, like project manager Jim Copes, said they hoped the president provides details Thursday about how the almost $800 billion plan would help the Peoria-based heavy equipment maker.

The company is cutting more than 20,000 jobs. Obama has said Caterpillar will rehire some of its laid-off workers if his stimulus bill is approved.

Chairman Jim Owens said, however, that Caterpillar will probably have to lay off more employees before it starts thinking about rehiring.  He didn't elaborate on a timeframe or how many layoffs might be possible.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said the difference between the statements made by Owens and Obama is a matter of "nuance."

Two-year Cat employee Stanley Bart said he's optimistic he'll keep his factory job, but he's resigned if he doesn't, saying "if it happens, it happens."

Obama now heads to Springfield, the birthplace of his presidential campaign, Thursday evening for a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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