Production of heavy equipment is continuing, for now, at the Caterpillar’s Oswego Township plant near Montgomery. But the company has retained a real estate and investment management company, Jones Lang LaSalle, to find a new owner or owners for the 350-acre complex off Route 31.
Heading into 2019, Montgomery Village President Matt Brolley said finding a new user or group of users for the Caterpillar property is among his top priorities.
Brolley said village officials will continue to work with Kendall County’s Caterpillar Task Force – an organization comprised of local, county, state and federal officials – in finding a solution to the prospect of a huge, vacant industrial property on the village’s doorstep.
“This is certainly a massive site and thus a regional concern,” Brolley said.
Caterpillar has operated its facility on the property since 1957, and at one time the plant employed more than 6,000 workers. But employment at the plant had dwindled to approximately 2,000 workers, including 1,200 office staff and 800 production workers, when the firm announced plans in March 2017 to halt production at the plant by 2019.
But last summer, a company spokesman said Caterpillar will continue manufacturing large wheel loaders at the plant into 2019. The company, however, still plans to “fully transition” production out of the local plant to its Decatur plant, the spokesman said.
Brolley said village officials also hope to finalize plans for the redevelopment of some key locations in the village’s historic downtown area while also investing in pedestrian-friendly uses along the Fox River.
“One of the comments we receive frequently from residents is a need for public gathering spaces and events in town,” he said.
Looking back at the past year, Brolley noted that the village board has been supportive of efforts to reinvest in the downtown. As an example, he noted the board approved the use of development funds to secure the purchase and demolition of the former Mill Tavern at the northwest corner of River and Mill streets. The tavern had stood vacant and in a deteriorated state for several years.
Referring to the former tavern site, Brolley said, “This strategic investment in our downtown will be a focal point for our efforts in 2019.”
Brolley also singled out the acquisition of the former Butterball plant on Rochester Drive by Carl Buddig & Co. as an economic development highlight for the village in 2018. Buddig officials have announced they plan to employ 250 workers at the 280,000-square-foot plant within the first two years of operation and then increase that number to 350 over the next five years. The plant will produce lunch meats and specialty meats.
“With the pending departure of the massive Caterpillar facility, it’s vital that we ensure our manufacturing and industrial facilities remain strong,” Brolley said.
Brolley noted that interest in the village’s economic development loan and forgivable grant program increased over the past year.
The board approved both a grant and a loan to Capelli Academy of Cosmetology at 109 N. Main St. in the village’s downtown. He said the firm will use the funds to expand operations in its Main Street building.
On the housing front, Brolley noted that construction is underway on the 468-unit Montgomery Place apartment complex on either side of Goodwin Drive, immediately north of Route 30. The complex site is situated just east of the Oswego Public Library District’s Montgomery Campus library.
Referring to the apartment complex, Brolley said, “This is exactly the type of high-quality multi-tenant facility we have envisioned to expand our housing diversity in Montgomery.”