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*** UPDATED x1 - Oberhelman: Headlines misleading *** Actual Caterpillar CEO letter paints far different picture than media coverage

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011

*** UPDATE *** Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman spoke publicly for the first time today about that now infamous letter he sent to Gov. Pat Quinn

The chief executive of Caterpillar Inc. again criticized the business climate in the heavy equipment maker’s home state of Illinois on Wednesday, but downplayed reports that it might leave.

“Legislators in Illinois have created an environment that is unfriendly to business and investment. At Caterpillar we want to help and lead a change in that climate,” said Douglas Oberhelman at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event. […]

At the chamber event, Oberhelman said headlines suggesting Caterpillar might leave the state were misleading.

“That’s not really what I said,” he told the chamber. “I actually said I was looking forward to finding a way to invest more in Illinois and change the business climate. Illinois is our home.”

Notice that Oberhelman once again blames legislators, not the governor, for the problems. Also take note that he repeated his claim that he wants to find a way to invest more here, not less.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* I haven’t seen the now infamous letter from Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman to Gov. Pat Quinn actually posted in its entirety So, here it is. Pay close attention to the third paragraph, which has received the least amount of media coverage…

Dear Governor Quinn:

Caterpillar has been proud to call Illinois home for over 75 years. Personally I grew up in Woodstock, Illinois, and aside from a few years out of the country for my work at Caterpillar, I have lived here my whole life. Before, I never really considered living anywhere else, and certainly never considered the possibility of Caterpillar relocating. But I have to admit, the policymakers in Springfield seem to make it harder by the day.

I’ve included just three of the several letters from Governors across the country that I have been receiving. They are welcoming Caterpillar to their states with open arms, and they make compelling arguments. I have been called, “cornered” in meetings and “wined and dined” - the heat is on.

You’ve always been honest with me, and that’s why I want you to know about these letters. I’m not sending them to you as a threat that Caterpillar is leaving Illinois. I want to stay here. And as our business grows, I’d like to invest more here - Illinois has always been the heart of Caterpillar. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what’s right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest. The direction that this state is headed in is not favorable to business, and I’d like to work with you to change that. Frankly, we need to re-structure this State’s business from top to bottom. I think you know that.

This is a firm letter, no doubt, but it’s also quite respectful and even complimentary of the governor. What it clearly isn’t is a dire threat to move the company out of state anytime soon, or a blatant diss of Gov. Quinn.

Oberhelman seems to genuinely want to work with Quinn to find solutions to the state’s problems. The Cat CEO has taken some heat from the Left for grubbing for money or whatever other advantage he could get here, but that doesn’t appear justified when reading the complete letter.

* Also, if you’ve been wondering how the letter became public, it was cc’d to several politicians, including Congressman Aaron Schock, Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno, House Republican Leader Tom Cross, Speaker Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and Quinn’s chief of staff Jack Lavin. I’d bet any money that one of them leaked it. Caterpillar’s spokesman has said the letter was meant to be private.

* Meanwhile, Quinn is sticking with the Leftie rhetoric

For governors cutting education and health care and going after public-sector employees to balance budgets, here’s a message from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn: You’re wrong. Not mistaken, not misinformed.

“Just plain wrong,” said Quinn, 62, during a March 22 interview in his Chicago office. “I don’t buy into all these radical cuts in government as a way to make life better for ordinary, everyday people.” […]

Quinn says he has made plenty of unpleasant decisions, including raising the retirement age for public employees, putting new hires into a 401(k) retirement plan and altering the Medicaid system.

“I’m not going to get our state out of the hole that it’s in in terms of the economy by just severe cuts in education,” Quinn said. “Lay off teachers? What’s that all about? Is that going to help us?

“No.”

* Related…

* Lawmakers defend tax hike, express concern for CAT

* Editorial: Cat not leaving today, tomorrow, hopefully not ever, but Illinois should take nothing for granted

* Roskam: High taxes have consequences

* Caterpillar’s Alarm Bell For Illinois

* Could Caterpillar end up in metro Sioux City?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

16 Comments
  1. - cassandra - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:12 am:

    Putting new hires into a 401k retirement plan? Did I miss something?


  2. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:44 am:

    I think that was a mistake on Bloomberg’s part.


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:47 am:

    Oberhelman’s letter is exceptional in in its serious, civil tone and in the balance he strikes in his role as CATs CEO and an Illinois corporate citizen.

    That’s not Jimmy John whining to the hometown newspaper. Here’s a major international corporate player looking to work it out with his state’s political establishment. Entirely appropriate and welcome.

    Many media outlets and politicians reaction to it were ignorant and hysterical. Based on nothing at all, too many stated categorically that “CAT threatens to leave state because of tax hike.”

    Very sad performance by a lot of folks who should practice a little more due diligence in their work. Until they can elevate their games, maybe they should sit this one out and leave it to the grownups.


  4. - vole - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:52 am:

    “Lay off teachers? What’s that all about?”

    Hundreds, perhaps thousands of teachers across the state receiving RIF notices are asking these questions.

    The Daily Herald article linked to in Rich’s post is very well written.


  5. - zatoichi - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:58 am:

    Seems like a pretty reasonable letter to me, particularly in comparison to all sky is falling statements. Cat has had facilities all over the world and in other states for quite some time. Oberhelman is offering assistance which should be listened to. You can claim he is looking out for Cat’s interests, which he should, but keeping a good business climate also touches Cat’s suppliers, all the associated businesses, and potential employees. Call it loyalty to his home state. Call it simply having some skin in the game. Let the pol’s debates go on and on. Letters like this are also an important part of the process. Nice move on his part.


  6. - wndycty - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 11:59 am:

    Lesson to Caterpillar, don’t cc other politicians if you would like the letter to remain private.


  7. - Beowulf - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 12:01 pm:

    When I first saw the letter from Caterpillar’s CEO to Governor Quinn, I did not automaticaly take it as a threat by Caterpillar to leave Illinois. They have too much invested in “bricks & mortar” here in Illinois to simply move out “lock, stock, & barrel” because of the negative governmental policies that Illinois has taken toward business. Instead, I read it to mean that in the future Caterpillar is “not likely” to build additional plants in Illinois or hire additional Illinois citizens. Caterpillar is being forced to look to build in other states. I think that most other readers of this letter probably also understood it to convey that meaning.

    ADM in Decatur (huge employer in Decatur)had also voiced this same concern two years ago. I am sure that their dismay of the Illinois business climate has increased greatly since then. However, Pat Quinn seems to have missed the point that Cat CEO Doug Oberhelman tried to graciously and tactfully make to Quinn. It seems that a “herd of buffalo” must first have to trample over Quinn and leave their hoof prints on his forehead before he realizes that “a stampede” is beginning. That is what is really scary about having Pat Quinn acting (and I do mean “acting”) as our governor!


  8. - OneMan - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 12:11 pm:

    Well governor I would argue it is worse to tell a school district they are going to get x, then give them y late…


  9. - Cincinnatus - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 12:29 pm:

    I gotta admit my ignorance here (insert joke here, gentle reader) since I haven’t followed Illinois politics too closely.

    During the election, many of the supporters of Our Boy Pat® and even some of his detractors seemed to make a number of observations that I am finding strange given his recent public statements. With the exception of his support of the troops, which I find to be commendable and consistent over his career, Quinn appears to me to be at best inconsistent in all manners of leadership, style, statement and indeed appears to govern as a traditional left liberal. Even Rich has begun to question Quinn’s tone and substance,

    “Meanwhile, Quinn is sticking with the Leftie rhetoric…”

    Honestly folks, especially those with long memories and personal experiences, have the burdens of the governorship changed this man or were the attributes we are now seeing always evident?

    No snark intended here, I am curious to hear your views.


  10. - CircularFiringSquad - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 1:03 pm:

    It is interesting the CAT Master’s letter is much saner than the GOPers react. We guess they feel bad for being exposed as madmen/women.

    Even though the Cat Master used Schock as a major campaign fund conduit and bankrolled Unes, he has too big an investment in IL to get too muts.

    Too many of his top executives live in IL and have zero interest Nebraska et al.
    The GOP panic attack was cute, but once again
    Fire,Aim,Ready


  11. - Edmond - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    Think some are missing point. Yes, letter is respectful and civil. What is unmistaken is his point that Illinois government/business need to be remade top to bottom and he has to know that Quinn will never do that. Quinn is a old time union liberal and will never reform state government like the CEO is suggesting.


  12. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 2:19 pm:

    Edmond, the letter speaks for itself.

    You’re inserting your own opinion and conclusions and attributing them to Oberhelman.

    There’s been a lot of that going on.


  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 2:22 pm:

    ===he has to know that Quinn will never do that.===

    From the letter…

    ===Frankly, we need to re-structure this State’s business from top to bottom. I think you know that.===


  14. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 3:59 pm:

    The assumption that one cannot govern as a liberal and contribute to a favorable business climate is nonsense.

    CAT doesn’t benefit that much from crackpot conservatives sole economic strategy being cutting taxes as a stimulus plan if that leaves no money to address any needed government investments in infrastructure that will both use CAT equipment to fix our bridges and roads and improve the bridges and roads CAT uses to move its products around the country from its existing plants in Illinois.

    CAT doesn’t benefit from crackpot conservatives drastically cutting funding for education, especially higher education, when that means they’ll have less talented and knowledgable engineers and business people to help the innovation and administration of the company.

    Yes liberals also support unions, corporate America’s and CAT’s favorite boogeyman, but what about the conservatives and their blind support of Wall Street with opposing any and all regulation of the financial industry, an industry that can sink the global economy at any time bringing much pain and uncertainty to manufacturing companies like Caterpillar?


  15. - Barton Lorimor - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 4:41 pm:

    Vindication. Sweet, sweet vindication :)


  16. - working class - Wednesday, Mar 30, 11 @ 5:29 pm:

    To hisgirlfriday: You go girl!


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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