TUCSON -- Caterpillar, Inc. officials have selected Tucson as the new location for the company's surface mining and technology offices. That means some jobs will be moved from South Milwaukee to Arizona.
A news release from the State of Arizona indicates the Tucson facility will create more than 600 projected new Arizona jobs over five years, with employees in executive management, engineering, product development and support positions. The state has estimated the economic impact of Caterpillar’s consolidation in southern Arizona at $600 million.
Caterpillar reportedly has a workforce of about 300 people at its Tucson Proving Ground and Tinaja Hills Demonstration Center locations. That number is expected to grow to nearly 1,000 with the changes. Officials say Caterpillar will begin moving employees to Tucson in the summer.
In October 2015, more than 200 jobs were moved from Oak Creek to South Milwaukee. And now, there's a chance some could be moving again.
"It will probably be bad for us, but I guess I'll find out when I walk through the door what's going to happen," Luke Lau, Caterpillar employee said.
Caterpillar employees said they had only heard rumors early in this process -- but some said they're not optimistic about the company selecting Tucson as the new location for its surface mining and technology offices.
"I've been laid off twice in the last two years. Five, 10 years ago, it was great. It was booming. We were all working a lot of overtime -- but right now, everyone's guessing when their last day is going to be," Lau said.
A Caterpillar spokeswoman said this in a statement:
"Employees will relocate to Tucson from a variety of Caterpillar locations, including but not limited to Peoria and Decatur, Illinois, and S. Milwaukee, Wisconsin -- all locations where we have mining employees. We aren't offering a specific breakdown at this time. As for what this announcement means for the remaining operations in S. Milwaukee, the announcement will not impact the manufacturing operations in S. Milwaukee. We will continue to produce rope shovels and draglines there, including aftermarket parts for both."
"While manufacturing might be done here in the Milwaukee area and the assembly is going to be done somewhere else, we know that the connection between those two, the supply chain really becomes an important aspect of manufacturing today," Steve Bialek with the Milwaukee School of Engineering said.
Bialek said the landscape of mining, manufacturing and engineering is changing.
"We will likely see a world where large manufacturing facilities are split up into many smaller, tinier places because we're using simulation and modeling and very different ways," Bialek said.
A Caterpillar spokesperson said the company's review for this "centralized hub" did include Wisconsin, but in the end, Tucson proved to be the best option.