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Newton tries to woo Caterpillar suppliers
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Caterpillar is moving quickly to build its $200 million manufacturing plant near Athens, breaking ground March 16, and Newton County is aggressively marketing itself to the company's suppliers.

Local economic development officials are marketing six industrial properties and created a flyer specifically to attract Caterpillar suppliers, as many as two dozen of which are expected to follow Caterpillar to Georgia.

The flyer was sent out Thursday night, but the response has already been "overwhelmingly positive," said Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

"When it comes to recruiting CAT suppliers, our message is constant and consistent. We are well positioned geographically, and our workforce is well skilled for advanced/process manufacturing jobs," Harrison said in a Friday email. "Our citizens aren't afraid to put in a hard day's work, and we're proud of that in Covington/Newton County."

The 860-acre tract of land on which Caterpillar is locating has plenty of room for suppliers, according to the Athens Banner-Herald, but Newton County could have an advantage if suppliers need existing buildings.

Harrison previously said Covington would be a fit for a metal fabrication supplier because the city has a history of hosting similar companies and has workers skilled in that field.

The 1.2 million square-foot Caterpillar facility will be approximately 35 miles from Covington and will manufacture mini-excavators and small tractors.

The proximity could also make the plant a fit for Newton County residents looking for work. Caterpillar started accepting applications for some positions two weeks ago and the company expects to hire the first 250-plus workers by next summer, according to the Banner-Herald, and will increase hiring to around 800 workers within five years and 1,400 workers by 2020. The company plans to begin production in late 2013.

Job openings are expected to come available throughout 2012 and 2013 and can be applied for at So far, only management positions have been posted, according to various media.

Clarke and Oconee counties are spending $17.6 million to buy land and prepare the site for Caterpillar, which is also getting $12.4 million in property tax breaks and $45 million in state incentives, according to the Associated Press.