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Local News

Caterpillar may cut last production lines in Joliet

Company considers converting Joliet to a distribution facility

The Caterpillar plant Jan. 15 in Joliet. The company said Friday it may move the last remaining production lines in Joliet to Mexico.
The Caterpillar plant Jan. 15 in Joliet. The company said Friday it may move the last remaining production lines in Joliet to Mexico.

JOLIET – Caterpillar Inc. may end manufacturing altogether at its Joliet plant, which has been producing parts for the company since 1951.

The company said Friday it is contemplating moving the last production lines of truck hoist and strut cylinders from Joliet to a Caterpillar plant near Monterrey, Mexico.

The Joliet facility would continue to operate as a supply chain hub, said Caterpillar spokeswoman Lisa Miller.

That plan affects 40 full-time positions. Twenty production positions would remain but be converted to logistics jobs.

"The transition of production would begin in the first quarter of 2017. Caterpillar intends to finalize this contemplated decision in the fourth quarter of 2015," Miller said in an email.

Union employees in the Advanced Components & Systems Division were notified about the plans Friday morning, said Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, who also serves as the secretary-treasurer for Machinists District 8.

The company said in March that it would cut hundreds of jobs at the Joliet plant and move some production lines to Mexico.

The plant has about 660 employees right now, including about 430 managerial and 230 manufacturing workers. At one time, the Joliet factory employed nearly 7,000 workers.

Miller said Friday the company did not have a "timeline or announcement" for the remaining 430 managerial positions.

The news came one day after Caterpillar announced that it planned to cut 10,000 jobs through 2018 in the face of significant downturns in its key industries. The cuts and restructuring are designed to save the company about $1.5 billion.

Warren Dorris, who worked at the Joliet plant and was sent to Monterrey to help move production there in 1989, said Caterpillar employed nearly 7,000 workers in Joliet in the late 1970s.

After some downsizing, the jobs held steady for some time, he said.

"It helped build a lot of churches and took care of a lot of families," Dorris said.

Then the Rust Belt Recession of the 1980s ushered in an era of declining employment.

Caterpillar in its Thursday announcement said that as many as 5,000 jobs will be cut by the end of this year from its salaried and management workforce, and thousands more will follow by 2018 as the company decides which of its factories will close.

Caterpillar, which built the Joliet factory now leases it from CenterPoint Properties. The lease expires in 2018.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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