Who's to Blame for Caterpillar Snub?

At least one Illinois congressman blames Gov. Pat Quinn for a decision by Caterpillar Inc. to skip Illinois when it relocates a plant from Japan to America, and transport 1,400 jobs with it.

Peoria plays host to the Caterpillar headquarters and was among a handful of candidates for the relocated plant.

Officials from the company sent an email to Peoria politicians and cited an increasingly hostile business climate in Illinois as a factor in their decision. They chose Cary, North Carolina.

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) said it's Quinn's fault because he allowed a climate unfriendly to businesses to develop in the state. To wit, the governor has had to make special concessions to Caterpillar and other Illinois businesses like Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Sears to keep them in the state after the legislature passed an onerous tax increase in 2011.

"While today's news is sobering, I hope that it will serve as a wakeup call for Governor Quinn," Hultgren said in a statement. "With the General Assembly currently in Springfield, he should immediately call for the repeal of his job-crushing tax hike, and work with them to improve Illinois' business environment."

State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) agrees.

"Caterpillar would love to give us the home field advantage,” he said, aiming his ire at Illinois politicians. "I think we ought to be looking a little more introspectively."

The Palatine Republican adds: "The tax increase hasn’t helped, we still carry a back log of bills, and we really need to get spending under control."

Quinn's office took issue the Republicans' contention. Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor is "very encouraged that Caterpillar" has had a record-breaking year in sales.

Anderson said Quinn has taken a number of steps to improve the business climate in Illinois, naming workers compensation and insurance reform as examples. She pointed to last week's investment by Chrysler in its Belvidere plant as a symbol of growing confidence in the state.

The existing Caterpillar plant, now located in Sagami, Japan, manufactures excavators and small tractors. The company plans to move those operations to the new site and retool the Japanese plant to manufacture components for a range of Caterpillar machines.

The company still plans to announce the location by April 1, start construction in mid-2013 and be at full capacity in four to five years, Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said in an email. He declined to name the sites that remain contenders.

The email indicated, though, that the plant will be built in "tight" proximity to the Cary, N.C., division headquarters.

"We have defined a very tight search area that is primarily being driven by logistics, port access, and proximity to our division headquarters in Cary, North Carolina," the email said.

Sandy Jordan is vice president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce. He said Cary, a Raleigh suburb in the Research Triangle region, has not made a pitch to Caterpillar to host the new plant, and hasn't heard form the company about its plans.

Associated Press/NBCChicago

Contact Us