It was less than a year ago that I was pounding the pavement in Peoria. My entreaty was not dissimilar to the time-tested "How's it playing in Peoria?" line. I was there to gauge residents' feelings about the economy--and they were mostly optimistic. It wasn't too surprising. Sales at heavy equipment maker Caterpillar--Peoria's largest employer--were booming, thanks to a cheap dollar and bustling exports. Caterpillar sales are a key economic indicator for this Illinois city. As one small business owner put it back in January:
"As Caterpillar goes, Peoria goes," Clementz says. "If it wasn't for the Caterpillar people, I probably wouldn't be here."
Today, we're in a global recession and the news is less rosy.
Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc said on Monday it would cut white-collar pay by up to 50 percent and offer buyouts to some employees as it looks to cut costs.
The news came just days after the blue-chip industrial company said it planned to lay off 814 workers at its Mossville, Illinois, engine assembly.
Word of the pay cuts at Caterpillar follows word last week that package delivery giant FedEx Corp was forcing salaried workers to take pay cuts of at least 5 percent and suspending the company match to the employee 401(k) retirement plan.
Residents' responses to the news on the Peoria Journal Star were diverse. One commenter warned: "Brace yourselves Peoria."
Another wrote of the "great strides that Cat executives are taking to keeping this company alive and prosperous into the future. Hard choices made by great leaders."