100 Workers Lose Jobs As Caterpillar Closes Plant In Owatonna

Posted at: 11/08/2012 8:31 PM
Updated at: 11/08/2012 10:16 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen

(ABC 6 News) -- An announcement by Caterpillar Inc. on Thursday will cost 100 employees their jobs. The world's leading manufacturer of Construction and Mining equipment will close its plant in Owatonna.

Workers we spoke with say their last day will be March 1st, 2013. Caterpillar Inc., or CAT, says the decision came as a response to weak demand for their forestry manufacturing equipment.

"These decisions are never easy ones to announce/ they're not easy to hear so we understand and regret that- that our employees and their families are forced with this announcement," says CAT spokesperson, Rachel Potts.

The company notified 100 of its employees it's consolidating its forestry manufacturing to plants in Wisconsin and Georgia.

"Overall our forestry demand in volume is down so uh we've had to make some tough decisions in order for the overall success of the business long-term," says Potts.

The shut down will happen in phases. Until then, the company is trying to help the affected workers find new jobs, including at the other two plants.

"Today's announcement is not a reflection of their work ethic, of the product…they build a quality product here. And they're a great workforce here. It was a business decision and by no means is a reflection on them," says Potts.

"We were surprised to hear that they were closing the plant down of course and- and uh disappointed in that," says Owatonna's Chamber of Commerce President, Brad Meier. He’s optimistic other businesses will step in to hire the laid-off workers and keep them in town.

"They have skills that we need. We need welders, we need machine operators and things like that. So we're really hopeful for them and their families that they'll be able to stay here in Owatonna and find employment," says Meier.

Both the Chamber and the company say the land will be up for sale, but it's too early to tell what kind of business will move in.

The company is keeping 20 of its engineers in Owatonna to continue their work. The 100 affected employees will receive severance packages as compensation.