LaHood critical of Caterpillar's plans to move global HQ
Caterpillar Inc. plans to move its global headquarters and at least part of its 12,000-member, Peoria-based workforce from downstate Illinois to the Chicago city area.
In announcing plans for the move sometime later this year, Caterpillar officials stressed the company's continued commitment to the Peoria and Central Illinois area.
“We value our deep roots in Central Illinois, and Peoria will continue to be our hometown,” CEO Jim Umpleby said in a press release. “The vast majority of our people will remain in this important region where we have many essential facilities and functions.”
Senior execs added that the reasoning behind the Chicago move has to do with the need for increased production and the chance to grow its team of expert workers.
“The new location is also an opportunity to add to our talented team while improving the productivity of our senior leaders,” Umpleby said.
The relocation of at least part of its workforce means Caterpillar will now abandon its previously announced plan to build a new headquarters in Peoria.
That part of the equation doesn’t sit well with local U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria).
"I am stunned, saddened and extremely frustrated to hear the news that Caterpillar’s corporate world headquarters will abruptly be moving from Peoria to Chicago,” he said in a statement made available to the Peoria Standard. “This is sad news for our community and our citizens. For over 92 years, Caterpillar has called Peoria home and we have embraced it with open arms.”
When all is said and done, a sizable portion of the company’s workforce is now expected to be situated in the city, with senior level execs slated as the first to make the move over the next several months.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis tried to put as big of a positive spin on the situation as anyone could.
“As mayor, I never want jobs moving out of the city,” he said. “However, the overwhelming majority of Caterpillar employees and their families based in the Peoria area won’t be impacted by this decision. I’m pleased Caterpillar continues to call Peoria its hometown.”
Given their longtime history, LaHood seems a bit more put off by the somewhat surprising news.
“This, in some ways, is a betrayal of our community and in complete disregard for the hardworking employees and citizens of Peoria,” he said.
Data show sales and revenue were down by more than 40 percent last year compared to the peak times of 2012, and company officials admit that is at least part of the reason for the strategic relocation.
According to Umpleby, the Chicago-based operation will be comprised of a lean team of senior execs that will now have better access to more flights as the company strives to become an even bigger player in the world of global transactions.
Again, that explanation offered by management strikes LaHood as a bit disheartening.
“Like many Peorians, I joined with countless Caterpillar employees in the unveiling of the new, state-of-the-art world headquarters in Downtown Peoria in February 2015,” he said. “Now, it appears that we have had the rug pulled right out from under us.”
With operations in LaGrange, Joliet, Aurora and at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Caterpillar already has a presence in the area of the city, though execs stressed they have no current plans of relocating the senior level team to any of their existing locations.