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Oxford Officials Tour Site Of Displaced Caterpillar Workers

Kevin Kempa (left center), Caterpillar plant manager, describes the Water Valley operation during a tour of the facility Thursday.

Yalobusha and Oxford officials spent an hour last Thursday touring Caterpillar’s temporary location in the Water Valley Industrial Park. The officials include (from left) Oxford-Lafayette County Development Foundation (OLCDF) Vice-Chairman Dick Marchbanks, Water Valley Mayor Bill Norris, Yalobusha County Economic Development District (EDD) Director Bob Tyler, OLCDF President and CEO Max Hipp, OLCDF Chairman Bob Collier, Yalobusha Supervisor Tommy Vaughn, Yalobusha Supervisor George Suggs, Caterp

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Oxford officials had a opportunity last Thursday to see firsthand the operations of Caterpillar and the Yalobushians who helped  an Oxford company find a temporary location after a catastrophe.

    A stormy February night spawned a tornado that devastated much of Caterpillar’s Oxford facility. That same night a Water Valley businessman, Cayce Washington, picked up the phone and offered his help. That help was the use of his building.

    “This building is available as long as they need it,” Washington said last Thursday as Lafayette and Yalobusha officials jointly toured the plant.

    Washington had purchased the 35,000 square foot building that formerly housed Steelmatic last November. He was only weeks away from moving his company, Valley Tools, from his current 7,500 square foot  building  prior to the storm. The buildings are adjacent to one another.

    When Caterpillar made good on Washington’s offer, officials with Yalobusha County Economic Development District and Yalobusha supervisors joined hands with the company to get operations started as soon as possible in the Water Valley location.

    In just a matter of weeks, machines were set up and production was rolling in the Water Valley location.

    “We are meeting all of our customer’s demands,” Caterpillar Facility Manager Kevin Kempa told officials last Thursday. That demand is being met through continued operations at their damaged Oxford plant, even working under a temporary roof; utilizing the Water Valley location, and other Caterpillar plants also increasing production.

    Kempa also said that all of the company’s 210 Oxford employees were either working or in training, and that almost 60 of these employees were working in Water Valley in one of three different shifts.

    Immediately after leasing Washington’s building, Caterpillar officials also acquired a second building, also in the Water Valley Industrial Park. This building, which most recently was the home of Worldwide Door, was leased by Caterpillar for storage.

A Helping Hand

    “The Lord had His hand in it,” Washington said of the transaction.

    “The building sat vacant for three years and I fooled around and bought it last November,” Washington explained. He had the building ready to move into when Caterpillar needed the building.

    “We just want to be humble providers of this need,” a modest Washington said when pressed about offering a helping hand.

    Washington described Caterpillar as his “third or fourth” largest customer for Valley Tools. He said the increased space at the new building was going to be utilized to meet his customers’ demands.

    “Caterpillar is one of those customers,” he reports.

A Success Story

    Washington’s own business story is unique. He began working in tooling and die at age 21 for a former Water Valley business, Concept Molds, before going out on his own several years later

    “I was green as they come,” he doesn’t mind telling you.

    He is quick to point out that the backbone of his business is his employees.

    “They are troopers in the deal,” Washington explained as he walks through his cramped operation that has obviously outgrown his current building.

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