Stimulus would let Caterpillar rehire workers: Obama

SPRINGFIELD, Va., Feb 11 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that Caterpillar Inc's CAT.N chief executive has said he would be able to rehire some of the company's 20,000 laid-off workers if Congress passes an $800 billion economic stimulus plan.

Speaking at the site of a highway construction project in Virginia, Obama noted that the heavy equipment machinery giant had announced some 20,000 layoffs in the past few weeks as a result of the global economic crisis.

“Today, the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan passes, his company would be able to rehire some of those employees,” said Obama. The president is scheduled to visit a Caterpillar plant in East Peoria, Illinois, on Thursday.

The Peoria Journal Star newspaper reported on Wednesday that Caterpillar Chairman Jim Owens would promise Obama on Thursday that his company would begin recalling laid-off employees if Congress passes an acceptable stimulus package.

Caterpillar declined to confirm the report, and the White House had no immediate comment on the source of Obama’s information. (Editing by Brian Moss)