Caterpillar global headquarters to move from Peoria to Chicago

Erika Ward

Last Tuesday, Caterpillar announced that the company’s global headquarters, which have been located in Peoria for more than 90 years, will be moving to Chicago.

“Caterpillar’s Board of Directors has been discussing the benefits of a more accessible, strategic location for some time,” said Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby. “Since 2012, about two-thirds of Caterpillar’s sales and revenues have come from outside the United States. Locating our headquarters closer to a global transportation hub, such as Chicago, means we can meet with our global customers, dealers and employees more easily and frequently.”

The news comes as a blow to the central Illinois area, as the Caterpillar offices in Peoria employ around 12,000 people. According to Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, most of those jobs will be staying put, with around 300 employees expected to move to the new Chicago headquarters.

Ardis gave the State of the City speech the day after the announcement at the annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon the day after the announcement of the relocation of Caterpillar’s global headquarters, voicing his own frustrations but optimism despite the news.

“My previous opening comments before today were about the tough year that 2016 was after we experienced about 1400 reduction persons in force at Caterpillar and the ripple effect that has on our community,” Ardis said. “I thanked Caterpillar for continuing to have confidence in their investments here and I said I was glad that their world headquarters was here. I congratulated Mr. Umpleby for his new appointment and wished him extreme success as he works hard with his team to bring Caterpillar back.

“My last sentence regarding Caterpillar was, quote, ‘Make no mistake, we want and need a vibrant Caterpillar in Peoria, and we wouldn’t be Peoria without Caterpillar,’” Ardis continued.

Ardis went on in his speech to say that everything he had originally written was true, even though the company is moving some of the executive offices out of the area.

“It’s a horrible kick in the gut,” he said. “We may lose up to around 300 jobs when this is done. But we still have the 12,000 plus people living and working here in the Peoria area and we still need Caterpillar to be strong and vibrant.”

Caterpillar is taking measures to reassure the central Illinois area that Peoria is still an important place.

“Peoria, Illinois, area will continue to have largest concentration of employees in the world,” reads a press release from Caterpillar.

The announcement of the move was not met without dissatisfaction, as even Congressman Darin LaHood voiced his concerns with the move.

“I am stunned, saddened and extremely frustrated to hear the news that Caterpillar’s corporate world headquarters will abruptly be moving from Peoria to Chicago,” LaHood said. “This is sad news for our community and our citizens.”

LaHood went on to voice his frustrations with the company.

“To say I am disappointed in this decision made by the Board of Directors would be a tremendous understatement,” LaHood said. “This, in some ways, is a betrayal of our community and in complete disregard for the hardworking employees and citizens of Peoria.”

LaHood called for the Caterpillar Board of Directors to reconsider the decision to move.

“Like many Peorians, I joined with countless Caterpillar employees in the unveiling of the new state-of-the-art world headquarters in Downtown Peoria in February 2015,” LaHood said. “Now, it appears that we have had the rug pulled right out from under us.”

Caterpillar said in the statement released about the announcement of the relocation that the company will continue to support the Peoria and central Illinois community, stating that over the last five years the company “has contributed more than $60 million to support thousands of families, organizations and programs across central Illinois.”

“We rally the troops when things get tough,” Ardis said in his State of the City speech. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had to overcome bad news. This will be another tough one, but we’ll get through it.”