By Yemeng Yang
Peoria was saddened Tuesday by Caterpillar Inc.’s plan to move its headquarters to the Chicago area later this year, but the proud municipality of 186,000 is looking forward.
“We’re disappointed today with the decision made by Caterpillar,” said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich in a phone interview. “But at the same time, I think what’s important to point out is that we have a very strong economy here in Peoria.”
Since 2012, about two-thirds of Caterpillar’s sales and revenues have come from outside the United States.
“Locating our headquarters closer to a global transportation hub, such as Chicago, means we can meet with our global customers, dealers and employees more easily and frequently,” said Jim Umpleby, Caterpillar’s chief executive officer, in a statement.
Some positions will be relocated from the Peoria area to the Chicago office, and “a limited number” of senior executives will move there. The company expects about 300 employees eventually will be based in Chicago.
Caterpillar promised to retain 12,000 jobs in the Peoria area.
Despite removing hundreds of jobs, Caterpillar said it will continue to support families, organizations and programs across Central Illinois, to which the company has contributed more than $60 million over the past five years.
“Our commitment to the Peoria area remains strong and we will continue our philanthropic support and deep civic involvement in the Peoria area,” Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts said in an email.
The manufacturing town seeks to expand its economy despite the loss.
“As a community, we have a resiliency that is second to none,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said in a statement.
Perhaps surprisingly, the largest employment sector in Peoria is healthcare rather than manufacturing. There are over 700 healthcare-related businesses that employ more than 32,000 people, which is 18 percent of the jobs in the Peoria area, Ardis said.
Some employers in the healthcare industry affirmed their continued commitment to the town.
“We respect Caterpillar’s decision,” said Debbie Simon, president of UnityPoint Health–Peoria. “As the region’s third largest employer, we are committed to partnering with local leaders and doing our part to ensure the Peoria region remains economically vital for years to come.”