Gov. Beverly Perdue and other state and local officials were at the plant to herald the $28.3 million expansion, which is expected to add 325 jobs over the next four years. An unidentified Caterpillar supplier is also expected to bring 160 jobs to North Carolina to work with the plant, officials said.
“For the second time in less than a week, Caterpillar is making a major investment in North Carolina and strengthening its ties as a corporate citizen of our state,” Perdue said in a statement. “By expanding its stake in North Carolina, Caterpillar has demonstrated that our own investments in education, worker training, transportation and infrastructure have paid off.”
Last Friday, the company said it would build a $426 million factory in Winston-Salem to produce axle units for large mining equipment. It could employ about 500 full-time and contract workers in five years.
Caterpillar will build a 270,000-square-foot addition to the Sanford plant that will house logistics and robotic welding lines to produce skid steer loaders and other equipment, officials said. About half of the new production is slated for export, they said.
Construction is expected to start in September, with production beginning by next July, officials said. The average annual wage for the new jobs will be $35,602, plus benefits, they said.
The Sanford plant and another Caterpillar facility in Clayton have experienced several rounds of layoffs since late 2008, as the company adjusted to the global economic slowdown.
Lee County's unemployment rate is more than 12 percent, and Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said it was difficult for her to stop smiling on Thursday with hundreds of new jobs on the horizon.
"This has been a hard couple years for Lee County," Olive said.
Charles Childress, who lost his job as a machinist five months ago, already lined up an interview for Monday for a job at Caterpillar.
"It's hard to find a job. It really is," Childress said. "I know a lot of people out there need work, and there's a lot of people out there qualified (for the Caterpillar jobs)."
Caterpillar employs 1,026 full-time workers in seven North Carolina counties, and with the economy stabilizing, the Peoria, Ill.-based company appears to be gearing up for growth again.
Lee County commissioners in June offered Caterpillar up to $900,000 in incentives to land the plant expansion.
Caterpillar also was awarded a $600,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides cash grants to attract business projects to the state. No money is paid up front, and companies must meet job creation and investment targets to obtain the funding.
Also, the state Economic Investment Committee voted Thursday to award a Job Development Investment Grant to Caterpillar. Under the terms of the JDIG, the company is eligible to receive a grant equal to 75 percent of the state withholding taxes on the new jobs for each year in which it meets annual performance targets.
If Caterpillar meets the all of the targets during an 11-year period, it could garner $3.46 million from the JDIG.