Local leaders react to Caterpillar headquarters announcement

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Following Tuesday morning’s announcement that Caterpillar will move its global headquarters from Peoria to the Chicago area, multiple local leaders voiced their opinion on the move.

Senator Tammy Duckworth told WMBD:

“I know today is a difficult one for many in the Peoria community and questions remain about how Caterpillar’s decision will impact the city’s economy and community. What we do know is that Peoria is a resilient city with strong educational opportunities and a diversified economy. I look forward to working with Senator Durbin and Mayor Ardis in the weeks, months and years ahead to support the city’s employers, grow small businesses and create more good-paying jobs throughout Peoria to ensure it remains vibrant for generations to come.”

Rep. Darin LaHood says:

“I am stunned, saddened and extremely frustrated to hear the news that Caterpillar’s corporate world headquarters will abruptly be moving from Peoria to Chicago. This is sad news for our community and our citizens. For over 92 years, Caterpillar has called Peoria home and we have embraced it with open arms. To say I am disappointed in this decision made by the Board of Directors would be a tremendous understatement. This, in some ways, is a betrayal of our community and in complete disregard for the hard working employees and citizens of Peoria. Like many Peorians, I joined with countless Caterpillar employees in the unveiling of the new state-of-the-art world headquarters in Downtown Peoria in February 2015. Now, it appears that we have had the rug pulled right out from under us. I have and will continue to urge the Board of Directors to reconsider this decision. At the very least, I urge them to immediately meet with leaders of our community — elected officials, labor and business leaders, and myself — to work together to minimize the repercussions of this decision.”

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

Despite the announcement today, we continue to have confidence in our community and confidence in the great leadership we have throughout greater Peoria. Our community will continue to look for ways to expand our economy.  Peoria began as an agricultural town, then the nation’s distillery, and into a manufacturing giant.  Some people do not realize that healthcare is now the largest employment sector in greater Peoria. We are very thankful for this growth and stability. There are over 700 healthcare-related businesses that employ over 32,000 people-18% of jobs in the greater Peoria area.  We have an active start up presence, creating jobs in new sectors every day.  As a community, we have a resiliency that is second to none. Our focus is on the whole region and ways we can grow this economy. We hold our current and future employers, and all of our citizens with the same weight as Caterpillar Inc. While we cannot control what happens on the global stage, we can work together to strengthen Peoria.  Caterpillar is moving 300 executive positions to Chicago, but we are going to hold them to their word that 12,000 jobs will remain in the greater Peoria region and that Caterpillar will remain a huge presence –as an employer and as a civic and philanthropic leader.

State Sen. Dave Koehler (D) says:

I am very saddened by the news that Caterpillar has decided to move its corporate offices to Chicago. This is very unfortunate for Peoria. It’s something that everyone feared, but had hoped would never happen. In a year in which the news from Caterpillar has been devastating to many families, this becomes another blow to our economy. For the past century, Peoria and Caterpillar have been defined by their relationship. I am hopeful that Peoria will rebound from this decision, showcasing the true resilience of downstate Illinois’ working people.

State Sen. Jason Barickman (R) weighed in

It’s extremely disappointing to see jobs moving out of Central Illinois, even if they will remain in the state. . . Caterpillar is an important engine in the downstate economy, and one of our state’s top employers. We’ve been told that the great majority of Peoria-based employees will remain here, and we will need to be vigilant to make sure they remain here long-term.

State Rep. Mike Unes (R) adds:

“I am disappointed to learn about Caterpillar’s decision to relocate its Global Headquarters from Peoria to Chicago.  Undoubtedly, the impact of this transition will be significant, presenting the Central Illinois region with challenges for years to come.  That being said, I am reminded about the severe economic downturn of the eighties, which occurred at a moment in time where the Peoria area was not nearly as diversified.  We rebounded successfully from that chapter of our history, and I have hope that we can do the same for our future.  I am encouraged by Caterpillar’s commitment to maintain a significant presence in Peoria, though the move is still unfortunate considering both the Headquarters’ deep history with the city and also its 2015 promise to forever change the face of Downtown Peoria.  I do believe that the consequences this new reality will have on our hotel industry, the airport, and the local housing market should not be underestimated.  Now more than ever, this area must embrace its own winning spirit, its “Never-Say-Die” attitude, and rise up to meet the new challenges of the day.”

Director of Airports at PIA, Gene Olson, has a more positive reaction:

The news today of Caterpillar’s headquarters move to Chicago is disappointing for our entire community to be sure . . . Cat’s press release indicated that the number of employees relocating to Chicago is anticipated to be around 300. The vast majority of the 12,000 locally-based employees will remain in Central Illinois. It is important to note that we have daily nonstop flights to four of the top five most connected airports in the world.

Kevin Schoeplein, CEO, OSF HealthCare, released the following statement:

The difficult decision Caterpillar made to establish a new global headquarters in the Chicago area is certainly a loss for our community. However, the total number of employees expected to relocate represents a small percentage of the local workforce, with the vast majority remaining in the Peoria area.

As it has been the case for decades, OSF HealthCare remains committed to the Peoria area.

The headquarters for OSF HealthCare have been in Peoria for nearly 140 years, when The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis established the city’s first hospital. Today, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and the entire health system have grown substantially, employing 18,884 people in 115 locations, including 11 hospitals throughout Illinois and Michigan. Health care as a whole outnumbers the manufacturing sector when it comes to employment in the tri-county area, according to the Peoria Area Economic Development Council, with 29,731 people employed in the health care industry in 2016, compared to 23,911 jobs in manufacturing. OSF is one of the largest employers in the state of Illinois.

In the past two years, OSF HealthCare has added 310 new leadership positions in the Peoria metro area alone, including 213 physicians and advanced practice providers.

Over the past decade, OSF has invested approximately $923 million in the local community, including building an expanded children’s hospital and a world-class simulation and education center. 70% of our net revenue comes from outside the tri-county area.

OSF HealthCare will continue to play a lead role in the growth and diversification of the Peoria economy. Through our work in health care innovation, OSF has brought new products to market and through collaboration with the University of Illinois, makes Peoria a regional and statewide hub for medical care, research, and product development.

Peoria County Board Chairman Andrew A. Rand said the following:

“While I am stunned by today’s news, it is still Tuesday, not doomsday, in Peoria. Our community has done remarkably well, considering the manufacturing losses over the last thirty years, as a more diverse set of economic interests decided to make Peoria their ‘home.’  The loss of Caterpillar’s world headquarters must but measured against the on-going presence of the remaining jobs and business operations in central Illinois.  We must work harder than before to position Peoria to be the best Midwestern city in the United States to live, work and raise a family.”

State Sen Chuck Weaver (R) says:

“As a result of Caterpillar’s announcement this morning, one of our ongoing concerns has now become a reality. This comes on top of a painfully large number of Caterpillar layoffs for workers in the area over the past few years. Too many members of our community have already been hurting before this announcement. Today we are focused on the loss of 300 leaders and corporate staff from Peoria, but we can’t forget to address the larger number of layoffs and relocations in recent years and what those past layoffs and relocations may mean for our future. We must begin working today to prepare for a healthy future for our community. 

Trying to sugarcoat the reality of this morning’s news will leave us unprepared to successfully develop a sound strategy to deal with our current reality.  Caterpillar’s announcement today that they will not be building a new world headquarters in Peoria and instead are moving their official corporate headquarters to Chicago, along with executives and staff, is bad news for Peoria and the surrounding area. There is no other way to say it; these leaders have been leaders in our community. They have invested, chaired boards and donated to our local charities. Others must step up. 

As of today, Caterpillar is committed to keeping 11,700 jobs in Peoria. I believe they make that commitment in good faith but we also must stand ready for market changes that can impact that commitment. Today’s loss of key jobs is devastating—while the loss of the 11,700 remaining jobs would be catastrophic. Today we have a cushion of 11,700 jobs. We need to use that cushion to establish a starting point for our future.  

Today we must again realize that we can take nothing for granted. Our decisions as a community must begin with an understanding that any corporation’s first loyalty is to the health of their enterprise. That is not a criticism. That is a reality. As a community, we will get the jobs and businesses we earn. It is not a time for blame. It is a time for clarity of thought, increased expectations of our leaders and increased expectations of ourselves. All of us have ownership for our collective future. 

Our schools, our government, our businesses and each of us, as employees and citizens, will shape our future. In the past, too often too many leaders have put their heads in the sand with regard to the realities that could occur. The bad news is that one of those realities happened this morning. We must focus on what each of us will do to ensure the best future for our community and each other. In a nutshell, we must prepare our workforce for a future that does not look like our past, diversify our local economy and cut spending.  

The lesson out of all of this is that we need to be prepared for sudden downturns by maintaining financially responsible policies. Above all, we need to stay focused on the fact that we live in a very competitive world and we must do everything possible to compete and win. We must compete as a community, as a state and as a country. 

We need our best minds involved in leadership at every level of government. I encourage fellow business men and women and leaders from all walks of life to seek election to school boards, city councils and in county government. We need to adjust to this new era and that means drastic changes in “business as usual” in local government. 

The first need is to begin strategically planning for the future. We must double down on our regional diversification strategy. We must continue to build upon what we have in our skilled workforce, top quality institutions of higher education, research facilities and other industries. As I said, I believe we will get the jobs and businesses we earn.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) said:

“Hardworking men and women from Peoria have always taken great pride in knowing their community has been home to Caterpillar, and there’s no denying this news is a real blow. Two years ago, I joined with officials from across our region as Caterpillar announced its intention to expand its footprint and keep its headquarters in Peoria – so this news comes as a shock. Our local economy is tied to the success of Caterpillar. My hope is that Caterpillar will keep the promise it made today for Peoria to remain its largest manufacturing site. I stand with all Peorians in expressing my deep disappointment with this decision.”

This story will be updated as more leaders respond to requests for comment. 

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