Caterpillar is building a new plant in Athens, Georgia to make small tractors and hydraulic excavators for domestic and export markets. The new plant will continue output previously handled by the construction machine maker's plant in Sagami, Japan.
The location has been chosen for its strong local supplier base and vicinity to the ports of Savannah and Charleston via which the company will ship partially-assembled excavator base units for final assembly in export markets, a strategy Caterpillar said will improve delivery times. The products will also be built for markets in North and South America.
Around 40% of production will be exported and Caterpillar is adding an on-site product distribution centre for small track tractors and mini hydraulic excavators produced at the new facility.
The facility site is close to two major interstate routes and roughly 200 miles from each of the ports.
The company will invest $200m in the 1m-square-foot facility, which is expected to directly employ 1,400 workers when fully operational in the latter part of 2013.
Caterpillar already employs 3,000 people in Georgia, with facilities in Toccoa, Pendergrass, LaGrange, Griffin, Barnesville, Atlanta, Patterson and Thomasville.
The move to build the plant in Georgia follows the company's decision last year to shift production from its existing plant at Sagami, Japan to the US. Once the move to Georgia is complete the Sagami plant will continue as a high-tech component facility supplying Asia/Pacific operations.
"The markets for smaller track-type tractors and mini hydraulic excavators have evolved significantly in the past 30 years, with the majority of customers now located in North America and Europe," said Mary Bell, vice president of Caterpillar's Building Construction Products (BCP) division. "Producing these machines at a North American location will put us in the best possible position to serve our customers in the building construction industry."
The move may also reflect the impact of the strong yen on exports of machinery from Japan to global markets.