Phasing out

The local Caterpillar facility, which opened 16 years ago, will close by the end of 2016.

THOMASVILLE — Employees at Thomasville’s Caterpillar plant learned Friday their jobs will end before the year is over.

The Caterpillar fuel system manufacturing facility here will close in phases, leaving about 200 employees without jobs.

The Thomasville operation, at 100 Caterpillar Way, along with a Caterpillar plant at Sante Fe, New Mexico, will be consolidated into an existing Caterpillar plant at Pontiac, Illinois, resulting in about 160 new jobs in Pontiac, according to a Caterpillar press release issued Friday morning.

The Caterpillar workforce was told Friday that various facility consolidations, closures and job reductions will take place in China and seven U.S. states. The actions, including five plant closings, will result in a net reduction of about 670 jobs.

Shelley Zorn, Thomasville Payroll Development executive director, and a Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce official, met with local plant manager Jarrod Moss Friday morning.

Zorn said it has not been determined when the plant will shut down. The closing will be done in phases.

“They have not announced the phase system,” Zorn explained.

The facility, which opened here 16 years ago, will close by the end of 2106.

“We see each job as a person. Each job loss is a person,” Zorn said.

A process is under way to help each displaced Caterpillar employee find a job within a year, the PDA official said.

The Georgia Department of Labor and other hiring agencies will be called on to help in the process.

Said Zorn, “We are committed to having a strategic plan to help each person find a job.”

Thomasville Caterpillar officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

In response to continued low demand for mining products, Caterpillar’s global restructuring and cost reduction efforts, announced in September 2015, will continue through 2018.

The production of large wheel loaders in Tongzhou, Jiangsu, province in China will transition to the Caterpillar wheel loader facility in Aurora, Illinois.

Caterpillar will close its forest products facility in Prentice, Wisconsin, and move production to existing Caterpillar facilities in LaGrange, Georgia, and Victoria, Texas. The transition, expected to be fully complete by the end of 2016, will impact about 220 positions in Prentice. Total employment in LaGrange and Victoria is not expected to be impacted at this time, as the work will be absorbed into existing operations.

Caterpillar is in negotiations with a third party to purchase the Prentice facility, and there is potential the third party will maintain a portion of the current Prentice facility workforce.

The company will transfer some remanufacturing work being performed in Lafayette, Indiana, to the company’s remanufacturing hub in Corinth, Mississippi. No layoffs are anticipated in Lafayette as a result of this move.

Caterpillar facilities in Mississippi plan to add about 45 positions during the next few years as a result of continued global consolidation of its engine remanufacturing business.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

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