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HomeIllinois NewsCaterpillar headquarters announce they're leaving Illinois; CEO warned why 10 years ago

Caterpillar headquarters announce they’re leaving Illinois; CEO warned why 10 years ago



PEORIA – Caterpillar announced this week that they're moving their headquarters to Irving, Texas – about a month after Boeing announced they are moving their headquarters to Arlington, Virginia.  It wasn't a surprise, analysts are telling us. 

MarketWatch's headline this morning:

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Indeed, while Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman insisted 10 years ago Caterpillar didn't have plans to leave Illinois, the Illinois General Assembly and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker refused to heed any of the warnings or suggestions Oberhelman made in this State Journal-Register op-ed in 2012

Caterpillar has deep roots in Illinois. Over the years we’ve employed tens of thousands of Illinoisans, including the 23,000 working and raising their families here today. My roots in Illinois are also deep. I attended public schools in Illinois, went to college in Decatur and have spent the bulk of my career in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois is Caterpillar’s home, and it is my home.

I’m pleased to be part of the governor’s new export council, which I hope will help Caterpillar and other Illinois companies increase exports, which support so many jobs. In fact, export demand played a huge role in our decisions in the latter part of 2011 when we announced investments totaling $840 million to support two of our Illinois factories. Sometimes exports drive those decisions, other times it may be logistics. More often in Illinois, the issues I am outlining below keep us from investing in our home state.   

Despite the fact that we have announced plans for dozens of new factories in the last few years and that our work force in the United States has increased by more than 14,500 people in the last 10 years, we haven’t opened a new factory in Illinois in decades. Our work force in Illinois today is at the same level it was 10 years ago. In short, when Caterpillar and most other companies look to locate a new factory in the United States, Illinois is not in the running for such projects. It doesn’t have to be that way.


About 10 months ago, I wrote a letter to our political leaders expressing my hope that the state would undertake fundamental reforms so Illinois could compete for jobs and long-term business investment that drives growth. To date, we haven’t seen much change.  

The governor’s recent three-year projection of state revenue and spending proves that even with the income tax increase, Illinois has not done what is necessary to balance its budget. Major credit agencies have downgraded the state’s bond rating. The state passed some changes to workers’ compensation last spring, but it wasn’t enough. Illinois will still be among the most expensive states for workers’ compensation insurance. In fact, our own comparison of workers’ compensation costs showed Illinois was far more costly than Indiana, which is consistent with a study by the state of Oregon that also shows Illinois is much more expensive than Indiana, Iowa and Kansas when it comes to workers’ compensation insurance rates.

What’s the solution? For starters, Illinois needs to adopt a long-term sustainable state budget that relieves pressures on taxpayers. Unlike some, I do not favor an early rollback of the temporary tax increases in Illinois, but they should expire as planned. Keeping the temporary tax increases in place for now gives the state time to develop a multi-year plan that must balance the state budget. In addition, the state needs to dramatically lower workers’ compensation costs. Some say these changes are not politically possible in Illinois. But if all Illinoisans put pressure on both parties to make these types of improvements, I think Illinois can become a place that can compete for business growth and new jobs.

Let me be clear. Caterpillar is not threatening to leave Illinois. Rather, we want to grow our presence in the state. For Illinois to really compete for new business investment and growth, the state must address these matters.

You might be asking why a $60 billion company that just reported record earnings would care about issues like this. We are pro-active members of our community, and there is no state or even another country where we have as much invested as we have in Illinois.

Business leaders are making decisions today on where to invest in the future. Illinois must act now, with a bipartisan sense of urgency, to position itself for future job creation that is being discussed in boardrooms all across this country. I want Illinois to be in the hunt for those types of investments, including investments by Caterpillar. Illinois deserves it.

Doug Oberhelman is chief executive officer of Caterpillar.

So … they're taking the headquarters out of Deerfield IL – to Irving Texas. A month after Boeing announced they're packing up their headquarters, too. 


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