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FIRST ON 3: Brunswick County eliminated from Caterpillar search last week

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Caterpillar will not call southeastern North Carolina its new home. Brunswick County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Jim Bradshaw says Brunswick County was eliminated from the selection February 7, but officials chose to keep that decision quiet until now.

Multiple media outlets in Georgia report this morning that the Peach State has beaten out North Carolina for the new location of a Caterpillar manufacturing plant. Bradshaw said he will comment after the official announcement has been made.

State Rep. Frank Iler (R-17th District) said our phone call this morning was the first he’s heard of it. After hearing that Brunswick County was taken out of the running more than a week ago, Iler says he has major concerns about the way we recruit big companies. He says he’s worried about the federal government’s commitment to dredging and keeping our port up-to-date.

State Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-18) agrees with Iler and says Georgia’s port system was more appealing. She hopes this decision will prompt some change, and says hopefully we will invest more in our port to be a stronger competitor the next time a big company considers building in our area.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two government officials say they have been told Athens will be the new home for the Illinois-based heavy equipment maker, which will add 1,400 new jobs to the area. Caterpillar has been shopping around many different states for their new location.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is set to make a major jobs announcement at 10 a.m., according to the Associated Press, which is also quoting an anonymous “official familiar with the project” as saying Caterpillar will bring the jobs to Athens, which is home to the University of Georgia.

Caterpillar had ruled out a site in its home state earlier this month and was reportedly looking to locate the new plant closer to its facility in Cary. Port access was also reportedly a key factor. Despite the fact that the site under consideration near the Brunswick-Columbus County line is about 20 miles from the Port of Wilmington and about 135 miles from Cary, Caterpillar reportedly has chosen the site in Athens, which is 340 miles from Cary, in part because of access to the Port of Savannah. Athens is about 230 miles from the port.

Stay with WWAY for updates on this developing story.

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