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West Plains Caterpillar distribution center on track

An electrician works in the new parts bin area at the new Caterpillar Spokane Distribution Center on Hallett Road on Thursday. (Dan Pelle)
An electrician works in the new parts bin area at the new Caterpillar Spokane Distribution Center on Hallett Road on Thursday. (Dan Pelle)

Caterpillar Inc. remains on pace to open its West Plains distribution center in late summer, with plans to hire up to 150 people.

The building is a 585,000-square foot warehouse just west of Spokane along Interstate 90.

Built at a cost that has been estimated at $37.2 million, the warehouse is large enough to house 14 football fields. It will be Caterpillar’s parts distribution center for the Northwest and Canada, which includes the massive equipment needs of the tar sands project in Alberta.

Brad Gile, manager of Caterpillar’s new Spokane parts warehouse, noted that tar sands workers are using 400-ton mining trucks and other large machinery. When new parts are needed they will be assembled, packaged and shipped from the Spokane plant by truck.

Caterpillar does not need rail service at this point, Gile said.

The company hasn’t yet settled on what wages will be paid. Caterpillar undertook a market analysis to determine prevailing wages for the type of warehouse jobs it will offer.

There is no union representing local Caterpillar workers.

The Caterpillar warehouse is held up as one of the region’s main economic development accomplishments in the recent past. The state offered $235,000 of indirect assistance to ensure Caterpillar chose Spokane rather than locating out of state.

The new building replaces a small distribution center in Spokane Valley.

The company is in the midst of building bigger distribution centers to serve larger areas.

There’s a similar-size warehouse in Waco, Texas, that opened in 2009, and another million-square-foot warehouse that opened in Clayton, Ohio, last year. Other warehouses have been built in Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.

The company said the newer facilities will not be affected by Thursday’s announcement that Caterpillar was selling a majority stake in its third-party logistics business to a private equity group for $750 million.

In Spokane, Caterpillar has hired most of its management team and construction crews are installing storage and parts filing systems.

The distribution center will be open Monday through Saturday. There will be three shifts per day.

It will work exclusively with Caterpillar’s network of independent equipment dealers.

The Peoria, Ill., company is publicly traded, with estimated sales of about $70 billion this year, and has a global work force of 125,000.


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