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Caterpillar: No specific timetable set for closing plants

STERLING – Caterpillar won’t get specific yet on a date to begin moving production from three of its local Anchor Coupling plants targeted for closure.

Company spokeswoman Rachel Potts said she expects most of the transition of production to occur during the fourth quarter of this year. The buildings are to be closed before the end of next year’s first quarter, affecting about 170 full-time employees.

The local Anchor Coupling plants are at 2910 W. LeFevre Road and 1005 Commerce Drive in Sterling and 1100 Anchor Road in Dixon.

In May, the company announced plans to consolidate the plants as part of a larger initiative to improve efficiency, but said only that the relocation site would be somewhere in North America.

On June 6, Caterpillar told employees at the Sauk Valley plants that production and distribution operations would be moved to the Anchor Coupling plant in Menominee, Michigan.

Caterpillar has said the three Illinois plants do the same work – building hydraulic hoses – that is done at the Menominee plant. The company says consolidation of the plants will save Caterpillar money in production costs and through the elimination of redundant management positions.

In 2010, Peoria-based Caterpillar paid $8.6 billion for mining equipment maker Bucyrus, banking on increased demand for commodities from emerging markets, especially China. The mining industry has been in a multiyear slowdown, and that part of the business has been a drag on Caterpillar’s earnings.

In the company’s earnings report released Thursday, Caterpillar said it had reduced its workforce by 7,000 since the same time last year, a 6 percent reduction. Five years ago, the company announced a plan to cut 20,000 workers.

The company said Friday that it still plans to hire more workers at the Menominee plant to accommodate the additional production coming to that facility. Displaced workers from Sterling and Dixon can apply for those jobs.

“As a result of production moving to Menominee, Michigan, that plant is expected to add approximately 120 jobs over the next year,” Potts said. “Employees at our Sterling and Dixon plants have the opportunity to transfer to Michigan.”

Potts said she had no numbers at this time to indicate how many local workers have been hired by Menominee.

“We are pleased with the level of interest expressed to date because we have a talented workforce here [in Dixon and Sterling],” Potts said. “However, it is too soon to say how many employees would make the transition and when it would occur.”

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