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Local News

Local officials get nowhere with Caterpillar on Joliet jobs

Governor's office shows no sign of getting involved

The Caterpillar plant in Troy Township.
The Caterpillar plant in Troy Township.

JOLIET – No public effort to save local Caterpillar jobs is developing, and the governor's office does not appear to be taking up the cause.

Caterpillar announced Jan. 15 it will decide in March whether to move 230 jobs out of its Joliet plant to Mexico. The company said the decision would depend on internal factors, rather than outside considerations, such as local taxes.

State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said he has reached out to the company to see if there is anything local or state officials can do. The response was no.

Walsh said he spoke with a Caterpillar official, and, "he basically told me that this decision is not related to any tax issue, any local issue. It's nothing to do with the business climate in Illinois. It's nothing to do with the way state regulates business. He called it an internal cost issue."

Walsh and other local officials had hoped Gov. Bruce Rauner might have some pull at Caterpillar. Company CEO Doug Oberhelman was on Rauner's transition team and endorsed the new governor early in his campaign.

Walsh said he could imagine Rauner saying something to Oberhelman along the lines of, "Here I am a week in office, and here you are talking about moving 230 jobs out of Illinois and out of the country."

He put a call in to the governor's office on the matter, but has not heard back, Walsh said.

The Will County Center for Economic Development is depending on state legislators to make contact with the governor's office, Chief Executive John Greuling said. Greuling said last week the CED did not know who to call yet in the governor's office.

Grueling, too, thought Rauner's relationship with Oberhelman might do some good.

"I thought, 'This guy is pretty close to the governor,'" said Greuling, who hopes Rauner will see the prospect of saving jobs in Joliet as "a win."

But if Rauner is talking to Caterpillar about the potential loss of Joliet jobs, his office is not giving any hint of it.

Asked if Rauner would make an effort to keep the Joliet jobs in Illinois, Press Secretary Catherine Kelly would only issue a written statement saying, "Gov. Rauner is very concerned about the anti-business climate in Illinois. Jobs moving out of Illinois is a huge problem facing the state and one he is working to address."

Caterpillar has not indicated the Illinois business climate is related to its plan.

Walsh said he believes the company is looking at Mexico because wages are lower and regulations are not as strict as Caterpillar might face in the United States.

A Caterpillar spokeswoman previously said if the company needed to speak with local officials, Caterpillar would call them.

The local factory is called the Joliet plant, although it is actually located in unincorporated Troy Township.

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