Caterpillar staying put in Peoria, expanding headquarters

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Caterpillar Inc. announced Friday that it is keeping its global headquarters in Peoria and expanding and overhauling its corporate campus in what it called a re-commitment to the central Illinois city.

CEO Doug Oberhelman said that after two years of study, the $55 billion global construction equipment maker, which has about 2,400 employees in its main headquarters and 800 others spread around Peoria's downtown, decided to modernize its riverfront complex to include a new three-tower building.

The company said it will expand the site to 31 acres and six blocks and add amenities, including walking and biking paths, and innovative workspaces to "retain and attract the finest talent in the world."

"Caterpillar will stay in Peoria," Oberhelman reassured a crowd of about 200 people, prompting a standing ovation.

Oberhelman had complained about the state's business climate under Illinois' previous governor, Democrat Pat Quinn, and the company's initial announcement that it was studying options for its headquarters led to concerns it could be considering a move.

Another major central Illinois employer, agribusiness firm Archer Daniels Midland Co., moved its international headquarters from Decatur to Chicago last year, and some had feared Caterpillar could make a similar departure.

Taking his turn at the podium, new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called it an "outstanding day in Illinois and a great day for Peoria," and said Caterpillar had offers from other states and could have gone anywhere. He praised the company's loyalty to Illinois and said it never asked for special favors in return.

"They never came to me or previous governors and asked for any special deals or any special treatment, tax breaks, rebates or kickbacks," Rauner said. "They just wanted to be treated with respect and know that Illinois is going to be fiscally responsible and run right, the way Caterpillar is run right."

Oberhelman, who was part of a transition committee advising Rauner on top priorities for his first 100 days in office, told reporters after the announcement that the company considered the pros and cons, but decided early in the review process to stay.

Asked whether Caterpillar's decision might have been different if Quinn had won re-election in November, Oberhelman responded that he was glad to see Rauner in office and appreciated the Republican's bluntness about confronting Illinois' financial mess.

"Everyone in the state knows how deep the problems are and it's going to take some time to dig out. He's at least talking reforms and structural changes, which is what we need," Oberhelman said of the governor.

Caterpillar's new headquarters building will consolidate its Peoria employees in one spot. The company did not say when construction would start.

Renderings show a three-story rectangular building topped with three boxy, glass towers. The redevelopment includes landscaped outdoor work spaces with a view of the Illinois River as well as a historic equipment museum and employee fitness and childcare centers. There will also be retail space.