ATHENS, Ga. — A $200 million Caterpillar plant in Athens will employ 1,400 people by 2020, state and local officials announced Friday.
The benefits will spread out. In addition to those 1,400 factory jobs, officials said Caterpillar will indirectly create 2,800 jobs through its $57 million payroll and $39 million in increased retail spending, generating $1 million in annual sales tax revenue.
Caterpillar will break ground on the 1 million-square-foot plant in March and start production in 2013, with 800 employees initially, Athens-Clarke County said.
Wages will be at or above the median incomes of $37,596 in Clarke County and $33,746 in Oconee County. Some jobs will require only a high school diploma; others will need two-year or four-year college degrees. Athens Technical College will train workers.
The factory will make tractors for global distribution and hydraulic excavators for customers in North and South America. Caterpillar now makes those products at a facility in Japan.
The plant is will be on an 860-acre industrial parcel called the Orkin tract between U.S. Highway 78 and Georgia Highway 316 in Clarke and Oconee counties.
“Investments in high output manufacturing operations like the new Caterpillar facility to be built in Athens can be a huge benefit to the local and regional economy,” said Sharon Younger, the president of the research firm Younger Associates. “Based on the production capacity of the new plant, I estimate the total economic impact to reach $2.4 billion per year as key suppliers locate in the region and the supply chain matures.”
The Carolinas were also in the running for the plant, according to several media reports.
Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, which has a megasite in south Augusta, said he would neither confirm nor deny that Augusta was in consideration.
“This is an extraordinary day for our entire state, and a game-changer for Clarke, Oconee and surrounding counties throughout northeast Georgia,” Gov. Nathan Deal said.
Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties gave Caterpillar $30 million in tax incentives. The two counties’ industrial development authorities, which met Thursday, bought 265 acres at the Orkin tract and will transfer ownership to the company over 20 years.
The land will be taxed at 10 percent of its value for three years, rising to 100 percent over the following 17 years.
The two counties will pay to extend water and sewer lines to the property. They and the state Department of Transportation will pay for road improvements at the site.
Caterpillar employs 104,000 people worldwide, about half in North America. Sales totaled $60 billion last year, up $17 billion from 2010.