That's how the production team delivered the new $90 million, 850,000-square foot Caterpillar plant, according to Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman. He was one of several speakers who celebrated the opening of the Bogart facility, where Caterpillar workers will build mini hydraulic excavators and small track-type tractors for North and South America and Europe. The plant is expected to become Caterpillar’s global source for both.
"I was looking for something to smile about, and I found it here in Georgia," Oberhelman told a crowd of several hundred people who had assembled for the grand opening celebration. He may have been referring to Caterpillar's report of weaker sales in September.
A roster of elected and appointed officials followed his brief talk, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Athens Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson, Oconee County Commission Chairman Melvin Davis and Chris Carr, the newly appointed director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Mayor Denson said that in a little over a year, Caterpillar has become an integral part of the Athens community. Chairman Davis echoed her words for Oconee. Both pointed to projects Caterpillar has completed, such as building or improving playgrounds, holding blood drives and participating in a day of service.
"Caterpillar," said Davis, "We're proud you're here."
The company has hired about 300 workers for the new plant thus far. When it's completely staffed, some 1,400 people will work there, officials said.
Both Athens Clarke County and Oconee County invested a lot in securing the Caterpillar plant, building and preparing roads and sidewalks and creating stormwater retention ponds, said ACC Manager Alan Reddish.
"You always have to ask how much can you afford?" he said. "Our incentives were appropriate for what we're going to get. Our investment will return a significant financial gain for the community."