Caterpillar to close Joliet facility

Caterpillar to close Joliet facility (Chicago) In a blow to the Joliet economy, Caterpillar Inc. plans to close a distribution center there that employs 206 people.The move bucks an influx of warehousing and distribution jobs to Will County, spurred by the area’s proximity to major highways and rail lines. But Caterpillar, the Peoria-based maker of earthmoving equipment, chose to shut down a subsidiary’s warehouse to suit the needs of a major customer.”There was a corporate business decision that is closing this facility down,” said John Greuling, president of the Will County Center for Economic Development.”It’s just one of those unfortunate things.” Caterpillar Logistics Services, the subsidiary, ships and warehouses products for other companies — and for Caterpillar itself. The main customer at the Joliet facility is CNH Global, a maker of agricultural and construction equipment.In negotiating its new contract, CNH decided to cease using Joliet, according to Caterpillar spokesman Ben Cordani. CNH is making the move “to improve efficiencies and reduce costs,” Cordani said.Instead, CNH will use other Caterpillar facilities, including one in Lebanon, Ind., Cordani said.The closing will take place in phases over the next 18 months, with layoffs beginning as soon as March 15. Workers at the Joliet warehouse include 158 “operations employees,” represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The rest are salaried and management employees.Cordani said some workers from the Joliet site might be offered jobs at the Indiana facility.”All the details have not been worked out. Certainly we’ll explore options, and that will be negotiated,” he said.Because Interstates 55 and 80 and six Class I rail services run through it, Will County has become a top location for new distribution facilities.”We can get to the vast majority of population of the U.S., and we’re not burdened with the congestion of having to go into the city of Chicago,” Greuling said. “Our challenge is not to be just a logistical center.” The economic activity has helped keep Will County’s unemployment rate at around 6.5 percent, Greuling said, though in Joliet itself, the unemployment rate is 8 percent.Illinois overall has 6.7 percent unemployment, while the U.S. rate now sits at 5.7 percent.The sharp demand for warehouse and distribution space in the area recently prompted Caterpillar to sell four buildings to CenterPoint Properties, an industrial developer that has been a big player in Will County.The 2.9 million square feet of industrial space houses Caterpillar’s hydraulics manufacturing plant, and Caterpillar will lease the property from now on. The plant will remain open, Cordani said.The company does not own the 500,000-square-foot logistics plant that is shutting down, either, but has been leasing the space.

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