and Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – “Caterpillar is here,” Bob Tyler told the Water Valley Board of Aldermen during their rescheduled meeting Monday night.
Tyler, who is director of the Yalobusha County Economic Development District, made his comments during the opening of the city board session that had to be moved from last Tuesday night because of the threat of severe weather.
Ironically, the same storm system that caused the postponement of last Tuesday’s meeting also spawned the tornado that practically destroyed Caterpiller’s Oxford plant promting the new temporary location in Water Valley.
The move came after a phone call from Water Valley businessman Cayce Washington the night of the storm offering assistance.
Washington invited Caterpillar officials to come to Water Valley and look at the former Steele Manufacturing building that he had recently purchased, Tyler told city officials Monday night.
Caterpiller liked the building and has spent the weekend moving in an unbelievable amount of equipment, Tyler said Monday night.
When contacted by the Herald Monday, Washington said his goal was to help a neighbor who was in need. That neighbor, Caterpillar, is also a customer of his company.
“We just want to be humble providers of this need,” a modest Washington reiterated.
Caterpillar employs almost 300 people in its Oxford facility which produces couplings for hydraulic hoses used in its earth-moving equipment.
Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan confirmed that his company had leased space in Water Valley.
“We have gotten a very positive response from folks there (Water Valley),” Dugan said.
Dugan said the temporary move was part of a comprehensive approach to getting back in operation as fast as possible.
Tyler could not comment on how long the Oxford company would operate in Water Valley or the number of employees involved. The new EDD director did report at Monday night’s aldermen meeting that the company was in negotiations to lease a second building in the industrial park.
Tyler also could point the finger at Water Vallians for their support to the company and its employees in the days since the tornado.
“It is just unbelievable how Water Valley people have helped Caterpiller,” Tyler said. Area businesses have provided meals for employees during the fast-paced setup currently underway. Tyler also praised members of his board, supervisors and city officials who have pitched in to help the company get underway in Water Valley.
“The corporate people have been really thankful to our community,” Washington agreed.
Caterpillar is the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment.