State Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) released the following statement after Caterpillar cancelled the construction of a new global headquarters in Peoria and announced the relocation of some leadership positions to Chicago:
“As a result of Caterpillar’s announcement this morning, one of our ongoing concerns has now become a reality. This comes on top of a painfully large number of Caterpillar layoffs for workers in the area over the past few years. Too many members of our community have already been hurting before this announcement. Today we are focused on the loss of 300 leaders and corporate staff from Peoria, but we can’t forget to address the larger number of layoffs and relocations in recent years and what those past layoffs and relocations may mean for our future. We must begin working today to prepare for a healthy future for our community.
Trying to sugarcoat the reality of this morning’s news will leave us unprepared to successfully develop a sound strategy to deal with our current reality. Caterpillar's announcement today that they will not be building a new world headquarters in Peoria and instead are moving their official corporate headquarters to Chicago, along with executives and staff, is bad news for Peoria and the surrounding area. There is no other way to say it; these leaders have been leaders in our community. They have invested, chaired boards and donated to our local charities. Others must step up.
As of today, Caterpillar is committed to keeping 11,700 jobs in Peoria. I believe they make that commitment in good faith but we also must stand ready for market changes that can impact that commitment. Today’s loss of key jobs is devastating—while the loss of the 11,700 remaining jobs would be catastrophic. Today we have a cushion of 11,700 jobs. We need to use that cushion to establish a starting point for our future.
Today we must again realize that we can take nothing for granted. Our decisions as a community must begin with an understanding that any corporation’s first loyalty is to the health of their enterprise. That is not a criticism. That is a reality. As a community, we will get the jobs and businesses we earn. It is not a time for blame. It is a time for clarity of thought, increased expectations of our leaders and increased expectations of ourselves. All of us have ownership for our collective future.
Our schools, our government, our businesses and each of us, as employees and citizens, will shape our future. In the past, too often too many leaders have put their heads in the sand with regard to the realities that could occur. The bad news is that one of those realities happened this morning. We must focus on what each of us will do to ensure the best future for our community and each other. In a nutshell, we must prepare our workforce for a future that does not look like our past, diversify our local economy and cut spending.
The lesson out of all of this is that we need to be prepared for sudden downturns by maintaining financially responsible policies. Above all, we need to stay focused on the fact that we live in a very competitive world and we must do everything possible to compete and win. We must compete as a community, as a state and as a country.
We need our best minds involved in leadership at every level of government. I encourage fellow business men and women and leaders from all walks of life to seek election to school boards, city councils and in county government. We need to adjust to this new era and that means drastic changes in “business as usual” in local government.
The first need is to begin strategically planning for the future. We must double down on our regional diversification strategy. We must continue to build upon what we have in our skilled workforce, top quality institutions of higher education, research facilities and other industries. As I said, I believe we will get the jobs and businesses we earn.”