Employees at the Caterpillar plant in Pulaski are hard at work, but by early next year, town manager Shawn Utt says this plant will be closed down, leaving 240 employees without a job.
"We heard a little bit, the rumblings from employees, rumors we were hoping weren't true," Utt says.
Robert Hiss, the assistant county administrator, says they were notified more than a month ago that the company would be making some sort of decision.
"We pledged to do whatever we could, if there was anything we could do," Hiss says. "In this circumstance, these are forces beyond our control in Pulaski. These are market forces with demand for mining equipment. It's an industry-wide situation."
"We value the contributions our employees have made at the Pulaski facility," a statement released by Caterpillar Inc. says. "However, these actions are needed to make our underground mining business more efficient and competitive."
Now, local leaders are thinking about Pulaski's economy, wondering what impact this might have.
"I'm still trying to get a grasp on what effect it will have on us," Utt says. "We're certain it will be a negative one, but hopefully not too bad."
They're hoping the impact on the economy and workers losing their jobs can be offset by three new companies opening in Pulaski in 2014: Falls Stamping and Welding, Korona Candle Maker, and Red Sun Farms.
"Between those three, there are 600 jobs on the way that hopefully the majority of Caterpillar folks can benefit from," Utt says.
They hope to keep these workers and their families from leaving they community they call home.
Here is Caterpillar's full statement:
"With a focus on taking actions that will best position the company for long-term success, Caterpillar Inc. recently notified employees that it is closing its underground mining facility in Pulaski, Virginia. The production of underground mining equipment, which includes scoops, coal haulers and other equipment, will transition out of Pulaski and into Caterpillar's Houston, Pennsylvania, facility by mid-year 2014.
This announcement comes after Caterpillar notified employees on October 8, 2013, about a contemplated strategic decision to consider the movement of current production to another location. We have since conducted a strategic review of the facility and its operations, and have made the difficult decision to move forward with the closure of the Pulaski facility, which has a workforce of approximately 240 people.
Caterpillar will offer full-time management and support employees a severance package and transitional support. Caterpillar and the union will be meeting to discuss the severance benefits for our production employees. We value the contributions our employees have made at the Pulaski facility. However, these actions are needed to make our underground mining business more efficient and competitive, which will be achieved by consolidating production at our Houston, Pennsylvania, plant.
Earlier this year, as part of the strategic consolidation of operations to improve engineering and manufacturing efficiencies, Caterpillar also shifted production from its Tazewell, Virginia, underground mining facility to Houston, Pennsylvania. Further to that, on November 4, 2013, the company announced it would shift production from its Beckley, West Virginia plant into the company's Houston, Pennsylvania, plant by mid-2014.