The closing of a Caterpillar fuel system facility in Jefferson has caught some area officials by surprise.
"We weren’t expecting a closure," said Shane Short, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We anticipated that there may be some layoffs because the (Caterpillar) corporate headquarters had announced that they would have some 20,000 layoffs in their facilities around the world. We thought we would be impacted a little bit, but not closed. We are certainly saddened to see the plant closed in Jackson County."
Caterpillar Inc. announced Tuesday that they would be closing the fuel system facility in Jefferson by the end of June. The Jefferson operations will be combined with Caterpillar operations in Thomasville.
"The (Jefferson) facility was chosen to be closed because they could pull everything from there and put it into Thomasville, but they couldn’t pull Thomasville into (Jefferson) due to the size of the facility," Short said.
Under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, employees are required to be given notice before a lay off.
"In accordance with WARN notice, employees were given 60 days’ notice, therefore layoffs could begin in May and continue through June," said Kate Kenny, a representative with the Caterpillar Corporate Public Affairs office.
The facility closure will affect 89 employees, which includes eight salaried and management positions and 81 production positions.
Employees of the Jefferson facility will be offered severance packages, references to outplacement services and the opportunity to relocate to the Thomasville facility or another facility in Pontiac, Ill.
According to Caterpillar officials, the amount of money that an employee receives in a severance package is confidential between the employee and the company; however, the number of years that an employee was with Caterpillar will play a role in the size of the package offered.
Company officials cite the need to remain competitive and to ensure that Caterpillar is in a good position for "long-term success" as the reason for consolidating some of its facilities.
Caterpillar touts itself as the "world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial turbines."