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OM in the News: Want Caterpillar’s New Plant in Your State?–Then Start Bidding

November 28, 2011

“Forget Kindle Fires and iPads”, writes The Wall Street Journal (Nov.26-27, 2011).”The holiday gift most coveted by local officials across the US is a new Caterpillar Inc. construction-equipment factory”. The planned $150 million factory (location announcement in the next few weeks) comes with 1,000 jobs– and election time bragging rights. So far, 2 dozen states, plus Canada and Mexico, have found enough cash for incentives to set off this major bidding war. Because Caterpillar is such a well-known brand with a long track record, it will be “asking for an awful lot from state and local governments”.

This is a great article to use in class when you discuss location decisions in Chapter 8.  First, we find that the firm is moving production of small excavators and bulldozers from Japan to North America –“to be nearer to customers”. Second, Caterpillar “says it is looking for good ports and other transportation links, as well as an established base of suppliers”. Third, the incentives. Caterpillar expects free land, road improvements, help with other infrastructure, tax relief, worker training programs, and cash. The firm is also adept at playing states against one another, and has released letters from governors of four states urging the company to move there. “If Illinois doesn’t want your business, Texas does”, writes Governor Perry.

Are these outrageous expectations? Electrolux AB, the Swedish appliance maker, won about $180 million in incentives from Tennessee when it located its new $190 million factory in Memphis last year. The plant created 1,200 jobs.

Discussion questions:

1. How would your state or local government justify a bidding war for a new plant like this one? Who pays the incentives?

2. Make a list of a dozen factors you think Caterpillar considers in its final selection process.

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