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Local News

Greuling: Joliet will 'not be unscathed' by Caterpillar job cuts

Company says it could cut 10,000 jobs to reduce costs

The Caterpillar plant Jan. 15 in Joliet. The company announced Thursday it plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs through 2018.
The Caterpillar plant Jan. 15 in Joliet. The company announced Thursday it plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs through 2018.

JOLIET — Seven months after Caterpillar announced it would move Joliet production lines to Mexico, the construction and mining equipment maker said it plans to kill off more than 10,000 jobs through 2018 in the face of significant downturns in its key industries.

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 as the Peoria-based company decides which of its factories and manufacturing sites to close.

"Joliet will not be unscathed," said John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development. "How that happens is anybody's guess."

It was announced in March that Caterpillar would cut 230 jobs in Joliet and transition to a sister plant in Mexico beginning in late 2016. How Thursday's announcement will impact Joliet's timeline is unclear, said state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, a former Caterpillar employee.

Walsh said Caterpillar isn't providing much information.

"In my opinion, with this announcement, there's nothing in certainty on what's going to happen in Joliet outside of what they've already announced," he said.

Caterpillar's leasing agreement with CenterPoint Properties expires in 2018, coinciding with the timeline announced Thursday.

That makes an easy break from Joliet, Walsh said.

"That's always, always been in the back of my mind. When they don't own and don't have any liability other than paying rent, it's easy to move," he said.

Company officials said in a statement that industries such as mining, oil and gas, construction, and rail have a history that sometimes includes prolonged downturns, but they are the right businesses to be in for the long term.

Greuling said layoffs are "unfortunately the theme of American manufacturing," noting concerns about the ripple effect losses will have on the local and state economy.

The company didn't update its profit forecast for 2015, but it noted that the lower sales outlook and higher restructuring costs will hurt profit. The company said the job cuts and other expense reductions are expected to help lower operating costs by about $1.5 billion. Caterpillar has trimmed its total workforce by more than 31,000 since the middle of 2012.

Shares of Caterpillar Inc. sank more than 6 percent, or $4.49, to $65.71 Thursday afternoon, while broader indexes dropped nearly 1 percent. Caterpillar's stock price had fallen more than 28 percent so far this year.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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