You may have seen recent news that Caterpillar Inc. is consolidating some of its component operations to its Menominee, Michigan, facility. What you may not have known is that Rolla was in the running for this business because the state of Missouri, Phelps County and the City of Rolla showcased this region as a viable location where a global business can compete.
Open letter to the residents of the Rolla and St. James region:
You may have seen recent news that Caterpillar Inc. is consolidating some of its component operations to its Menominee, Michigan, facility.
What you may not have known is that Rolla was in the running for this business because the state of Missouri, Phelps County and the City of Rolla showcased this region as a viable location where a global business can compete.
Although the company ultimately decided to consolidate operations in one of its existing facilities, Rolla was among the top candidates for consolidation of the work.
In addition to our geographic location and development-ready, top-notch facilities, the area’s business-friendly climate and a group of leaders focused on economic improvement put the city in contention.
Per standard business development process, Rolla Regional Economic Commission (RREC) was initially notified the former Briggs & Stratton building in Hy-Point Industrial Park was being considered by a Fortune 50 company in early 2013.
Once non-disclosure agreements were signed, the company’s name was revealed only to individuals associated with the project.
RREC Executive Director Cyndra Lorey and the project manager from the Missouri Department of Economic Development immediately began the work of bringing business and jobs to the area.
State incentives, which are a common tool to attract economic development, were part of the region’s bid for this business. Incentives included job tax credits, training assistance and infrastructure support.
The City of Rolla and Phelps County offered property tax abatements, discounted utilities and additional utility infrastructure assistance. An additional offer to purchase a portion of the building was provided by RREC, backed by the Rolla Community Development Corporation (RCDC), when the building was determined to be too large for one of Caterpillar’s scenarios.
The company indicated the combined state and local incentives were competitive, bringing the site’s costs within the range needed to make the project viable. They were particularly impressed with a customized incentive program designed to welcome transferred employees to the community.
Throughout the study, the RREC, Rolla and the state of Missouri remained in constant touch with Caterpillar, including engagement from Gov. Jay Nixon.
Lorey, RREC Board President Shad Becker, Rolla’s mayor at the time Bill Jenks, Missouri Director of Economic Development Mike Downing and Nixon visited the company headquarters in Peoria, Illinois.
Multiple factors come into consideration when selecting a site, especially with a corporation as multi-faceted as Caterpillar. The company must consider all opportunities to make quality products at the best price and provide the best customer service.
It is disappointing Rolla didn’t land this deal, but all should hold their heads high knowing we were extremely competitive against other potential North American locations.
We showed Caterpillar a focused, cooperative community that provided a competitive offer and a community that resonated well with its corporate culture.
We are optimistic Rolla will remain on Caterpillar’s radar and will once again have the opportunity to compete any time the company looks to make changes to its operations.
The RREC expresses its appreciation to the city, county and state administration, the RCDC and Rolla Municipal Utilities for their support in this massive effort.
In addition, thank you to the companies who, along with the City of Rolla and RREC, pledged funds for the special incentive program: RCDC, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce, Phelps County Bank, South Central Board of Realtors, Mercy, Jenks/Long Insurance Company, Town & Country Bank, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Investment Realty, Acar, Bass & Voss Realtors, US Bank, Mid America Bank & Trust, Sinks Pharmacy and the City of St. James.
A special thank you goes to Fairground Auto Plaza for providing transportation for the trips to Peoria, Illinois.
Cyndra Lorey is the executive director of the Rolla Regional Economic Commission.