Caterpillar, the company that helps countries develop their infrastructure, energy and natural resources around the world, now has a plant in Athens, GA. With $55,656 billion in sales and revenues (2013), Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
Its new 8,500 square-foot manufacturing facility sits on 200 acres near Athens, straddling the Clarke and Oconee County lines. Caterpillar plans to manufacture mini-hydraulic excavators and track-type tractors for the South and North American markets and Europe there.
Opened in last October, the facility already employs 600 employees. It plans to hire a total of 1,400 workers by 2018, according to Michael White, human resources manager of the Athens facility, which is part of Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products Division. In addition, an impact report estimates another 2,800 jobs will be added to the community through supplier companies and the local real estate and retailers.
Athens, Georgia was attractive for a variety of reasons, White said, including the state’s 200-acre site, its positive business climate, its proximity to customers on the Eastern seaboard via Georgia’s ports and its convenience to division headquarters in North Carolina.
“We liked the overall logistics and the strong manufacturing base in Georgia,” said White. “The help we’ve had from the Technical College System of Georgia has been invaluable. Before we even opened, Athens Technical College offered us temporary office space and built a Quick Start training facility for our customized training needs.” Quick Start is the Technical College System of Georgia’s workforce development program for new and expanding businesses.
Caterpillar works with nearby technical colleges to recruit skilled workers. Welding and manufacturing operations specialist graduates are in particular demand.
“We’ve hired about 90 welders and will continue to need workers with that skill,” said White. “Having a welding background or training from a technical college or trade school program is a qualification for those positions.”
The majority of jobs are manufacturing production jobs, including assemblers, welders, quality control technicians and supervisors. “Our workers come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some have bachelor degrees, some are students at North Georgia, Lanier and Athens technical colleges, and others are interns from local high schools,” said White. Production employees go through three-to-six weeks of Caterpillar training through Georgia Quick Start.
The company also has positions in supply chain logistics, manufacturing engineering, design engineering, human resources and accounting.
Strong work ethics are woven into the company culture. “Caterpillar believes in values in action, so when we interview prospective employees, we’re looking for people who demonstrate integrity, excellence, teamwork, and commitment,” said White.
The most important part of the Caterpillar production system is people, he said. “Employee safety and engagement are listed at the top of our operational principles, and we practice what we preach,” said White.
The company trains new employees and continues to develop workers throughout their careers. “We offer tuition reimbursement after one year and that has a lot of appeal to employees,” said White. Workers can easily find ways to advance their careers. There are clear paths for entry-level workers to move into supervisory and management positions.
“One of the advantages of working at a new facility is that we’re growing and there are lots of opportunities for promotion and development,” said White.
Applicants can learn about open positions and apply at www.caterpillar.com/careers.