The Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District voted Wednesday to spend $52 million to bring Caterpillar Inc. to Tucson.
Along with $4 million promised to Caterpillar by the Arizona Commerce Authority, the offer is one of the largest in recent state history, Rio Nuevo officials said.
The Rio Nuevo board’s unanimous vote came after about 20 minutes of discussion.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday announced the addition of Caterpillar’s Surface, Mining & Technology Division to downtown Tucson with up to 600 executive jobs over the next five years and an estimated economic impact of $600 million.
“If you want to attract big businesses, you’ve got to put some skin in the game,” Rio Nuevo Chairman Fletcher McCusker told board members. “We’re the first up to advance the ball … and demonstrate to Caterpillar how important they are to this community.”
A $2 million payment will be made to Caterpillar, in conjunction with the state’s $4 million, for moving expenses.
The other $50 million approved will be used to build a new headquarters for the earth-moving company, west of Interstate 10 and just south of West Cushing Street.
McCusker said the $50 million could be secured by Rio Nuevo through direct bank financing or by issuing bonds.
He stressed that the building will be in line with the area’s architecture.
The motion stated that Rio Nuevo would enter into a 25-year lease with Caterpillar for the building with an option for Caterpillar to buy the building at the end of the lease. The company will be responsible for paying utilities and taxes.
Prior to the vote, the board heard from Joe Snell, CEO of Sun Corridor Inc., which helped recruit Caterpillar to Tucson.
“From an economic development standpoint, this is the home run this community has been waiting for,” he said. “This does a lot for our reputation.”
Congratulatory calls Wednesday came from all over the country, as well as from London and Mexico City, Snell said. “This is gonna help our brand,” he told the board.
The Tucson headquarters will be a consolidation of five or six Caterpillar sites around the country.
Caterpillar’s key industries are construction, mining, oil and gas. Falling oil prices have reduced the amount of drilling activity and the mining industry is in a down cycle.
In September, Caterpillar announced a major restructuring that included cutting up to 5,000 employees by the end of 2016, facility closures and consolidations. Staff cuts could rise to 10,000 by 2018, the company said.
Officials said the restructuring would lower operating costs by about $1.5 billion a year when fully implemented.
Company revenues in 2015 were about $48 billion.
“The state’s budget is around $9 billion,” McCusker pointed out. “This is not a startup company, it’s a true American iconic brand.”
He said Caterpillar chose Tucson as the consolidated location because of the lower cost of doing business and the area’s cost of living.
The majority of the Caterpillar jobs will be filled by relocated employees from around the globe in executive management, engineering, product development and support positions. Salaries are in the $90,000-plus range.
In the coming weeks, between 40 and 60 employees will temporarily relocate into a county-owned building at 97 E. Congress St., while the new facility is built.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will take up the lease agreement at its meeting next week and the Tucson City Council still must approve the sale of the land where the new headquarters will be built.