Minn. - Caterpillar, Inc., the worldwide maker of mining equipment, engines and other heavy equipment, plans to close its plant here by the end of the year, the company announced.The company told its 50 workers at the plant - which makes paving equipment parts - about the plans Monday, company spokesman Rusty Dunn said. He said the decision was related to changes in Caterpillar's global paving organization. "It's part of an overall restructuring and streamlining to become more competitive and profitable in the paving business," Dunn said. At the company's recent annual meeting, chief executive Jim Owens reported to stockholders that Caterpillar achieved record profits in 2005 and that the first quarter of 2006 was the best in the companys history.
The company also announced a 20 percent increase in dividends to shareholders. Caterpillar had 2005 sales and revenues of $36.339 billion and is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines. The work being done at the New Ulm plant includes a lot of machining and welding. Caterpillar will move some of that work to its Brooklyn Park plant and outsource some of it outside the company. Some New Ulm workers may be able to transfer to the Brooklyn Park plant, some may be eligible for severance benefits and all will be eligible for outplacement services, Dunn said. Brian Tohal, the city's economic development coordinator, said he was confident a new employer would be found to fill the building. "The question is whether this will take a long time or a short time," he said.