Sep 24, 2007

Jobs are plentiful in Peoria

I spent most of last week at a conference and exposition in Grand Rapids, MI, put on by SME. One of the booths was Caterpillar's - specifically to recruit people for the hundred engineering and technical job openings they have right now. Not only do they want experienced engineers, but they also have jobs for new grads and internships for college students.

Steve Luthy was trying to buttonhole guys and gals and practically make offers there on the show floor. Jim Reeb, Director of Manufacturing, made a presentation and showed how fast Cat's revenues are growing. Although they manufacture in 66 countries, sometimes as a condition for selling into a country, the greatest part of their production is in North America.

Not only do they have a lot of openings, continued pursuit of efficiency and lean operations has made revenue per employee grow robustly.

Cat went through some labor difficulties a few years back, you might recall. Eventually about half the striking employees came back to work. Some had accepted jobs elsewhere during the strike, and others just stayed out. Since then, according to the guys at Cat, things have been going pretty well.

Reeb stressed the company's commitment to safety and integrity. He told a story of a negotiation to buy a company in Italy. He said that when it came time to sign the contract, the selling party started to talk about changes that just sounded fishy to him. He responded that he'd walk away from the deal before agreeing to what they proposed, and they questioned whether he really had the authority to make the final decision on the deal. He said that he knew that Cat's stand on integrity meant that he could count on management's support if he rejected a deal for an operation that they really wanted to acquire.

So if someone you know needs a job in manufacturing, engineering, logistics or a bunch of other areas, he or she should go to the Cat website and take a look. East Peoria, Decatur and Aurora, Illinois are nice midwestern places to bring up kids. Chicago isn't so far away that you can't have a fun weekend now and then.

It's hard for these sorts of stories to break through the gloomy picture the media presents. And remember, in an election year, everyone wants to blame the other side for anything and promise that they'll fix it -- even if it ain't broken.

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