Friday, May 25, 2012

Caterpillar’s Impact Hard To Know Until Suppliers Identified, According To Oconee County Development Head

Location Minimizes Traffic

Caterpillar will bring about 150 people from outside the area to work at the manufacturing plant and distribution center on the edge of Bogart, but those people are unlikely to all settle in Oconee County.

The plant is located at a nearly ideal location in terms of transportation, and it is unlikely to have a significant impact on traffic congestion in the area.

The major impact of the project will come when suppliers also move to the area, but, at present, it is “too early to tell” how many such suppliers will relocate here.

These were some of the comments Oconee County Economic Development Director Rusty Haygood made to members of the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning at its meeting on May 15. Haygood had been invited to the regularly scheduled meeting at Veterans Park to brief the Committee on Caterpillar and its implications for land use and transportation in the county.

Haygood made a few introductory comments and then took questions from Committee members.

Most of the questions dealt with Caterpillar, but Committee members also asked about the upcoming Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and other concerns.

Haygood told the group that the $200 million project is on schedule and he expects it to start production next year. Mini hydraulic excavators will be the first product off the line, to be followed by the small track style tractors, he said.

The estimated annual payroll for the plant is $60 million, according to Haygood, and that money will spread around the community and have impact, he added.

According to Haygood, Caterpillar has an option on additional land from the larger Orkin Tract, which is bordered by SR 316 on the south, Atlanta Highway on the north, U.S. 78 on the east, and the city of Bogart on the west.

Courting Japanese Suppliers

The Georgia Department of Economic Development has a trade mission to Japan to try to get suppliers there to move here, Haygood said. Most of these are Japanese companies supplying the plant in Japan that Caterpillar will relocate here.

It is possible Caterpillar will find suppliers nearby who will not need or want to relocate, Haygood said.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the actions of the suppliers, Haygood said it is impossible to estimate the total overall impact of the project on the area.

While Haygood estimated that about 150 people from outside the area will work at the plant, some may not relocate or may even work from home.

The plant is located in the far north of Oconee County, straddling the Oconee and Clarke county line.

Those moving here and looking for housing could easily locate in Barrow, Jackson, Clarke or Oconee County and be in close proximity to the plant.

Haygood told the group that during discussions over the move to the area Caterpillar expressed an interest in passage of the tax reform that would provide a tax exemptions for energy used by it and other manufacturers and passage of T-SPLOST.

The legislature did pass the energy tax exemption, and voters around the state will decide on July 31 if they are willing to add an additional 1 percent sales tax to increase spending on transportation.

Haygood said Caterpillar has shown interest in shipping its product by rail as well as by highway. A CSX line runs just across Atlanta Highway from the plant.

I edited the video above to provide details on Haygood’s comments about Caterpillar. I eliminated his response to questions on other topics.

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