Caterpillar selects Athens, Georgia, for new plant

NEW YORK Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:42am EST

NEW YORK Feb 17 (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc has picked a site near Athens, Georgia, for a plant that will build small tractors and excavators, investing $200 million to shift some production from Japan, the machinery maker said on Friday.

The facility will employ 1,400 people once it is fully operational in about five years. Construction will begin this quarter.

Another 2,800 jobs will be created among suppliers and other employers, according to the company and Georgia state officials.

Caterpillar will export small track-type tractors from the facility. The company moved production from Japan to be closer to customers in North America and Europe.

Caterpillar said in November it would also consider sites in Canada and Mexico with good access to ports. It said it did not expect job cuts at its plant in Sagami, Japan.

Athens was picked because of its proximity to the ports in Savannah and Charleston, South Carolina.

Big U.S. manufacturers moved their production out of the country too quickly over the past decades and now see a competitive advantage in building up their footprints back home, top executives said this week at an event organized by General Electric.

Caterpillar shares were little changed in early trading.

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