Last week, Caterpillar employees, local government officials, business partners and community members gathered to celebrate 10 years of the plant that straddles Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
“We’re here today because we made a great choice,” said Caterpillar Vice President and General Manager Korey Coon.
“To think that we’ve spread that love to over 100,000 customers in 50 countries around the world,” Coon said. “It’s something this team should be proud of.”
State Sen. Bill Cowsert spoke at the event and shared his memories of how it came to be.
“This was known as the Orkin Tract, and it was reputed to be one of the largest undeveloped tracts of land on the eastern seaboard, ideal for a manufacturing plant,” Cowsert said.Caterpillar has three main buildings totaling 850,000 square feet for the production of NextGen mini hydraulic excavators and small track-type tractors, also known as bulldozers, which they began making in March of 2014.
By August 2019, the plant had built 50,000 machines and in February 2023, it hit the 100,000th machine mark.
According to a fact sheet at the event, the machines made at the Athens facility are used for work on landscaping, general construction, road construction, demolition, land clearing, irrigation and utilities.
Caterpillar Athens Facility Manager Errol Wint said Caterpillar’s 10 years at the facility in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties were a product of teamwork and collaboration between the cities, counties and state government.
Wint spoke about the team of around 1,200 people that make the plant run each day and the employees who have been at the plant since the beginning.Caterpillar Athens 10-year employees Crystal Rucker and DJ Johnson said they have worked their way up together since the start.
“We worked from welders up to team leads and now supervisors,” Rucker said.
Johnson said Caterpillar has invested in him and others, training and developing them in their specific roles and their leadership skills.
“I think that’s why I’m still here to this day, because they put forth the effort in me,” Johnson said.
Woodrow Haralson, also a 10-year Caterpillar Athens employee, said he began working in quality teams, then on the change control team and now is the material master owner for small track-type tractors.
Haralson said the workplace culture at the facility includes group lunches, outings and team-building experiences.
Coon said to the crowd that the anniversary is a big milestone but that Caterpillar plans to be in Bogart for a long time.
“Hopefully you all feel that when Caterpillar comes to a community, we make it a better place to live, work and play,” Coon said. “We don’t just invest in the 1,200 people that we employ here. We invest in so much more. The impact on the community goes to the trucking companies, hotels, restaurants and our suppliers, and hopefully that positive impact continues to be felt.”