Caterpillar – not the hairy, icky type – keeps presence in York County, Pa.

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When the old York, Pa., Caterpillar plant was being rehabbed for office and industrial space about 10 years ago, the problem was how to show off the scope of the massive Springettsbury plant. Miller Computer Solutions created a virtual computer tour of the Caterpillar plant. Today, many businesses operate on the old site, known today as the York Business Center. Also of interest: Just try to resist studying this memory-tugging photograph and Former Cat chief much respected in York County and York County, Pa. made big, heavy things – and was immensely proud of it.
Some York countians might have wondered why Caterpillar’s recent labor talks recently drew so much ink.
Caterpillar moved from York County in 1998, so why the attention?
Often overlooked is the fact that Caterpillar maintains a still-significant presence in Springettsbury Township.
Not as larger as the 1950s through mid-1990s period in which Caterpillar and nearby manufacturing partner Harley-Davidson provided employment for maybe 5,000 residents… .


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When this rehab work was going on about 10 years ago, a York, Pa., Daily Record photographer captured the size of the former Caterpillar plant.
Indeed, Caterpillar’s emergence in suburban York forced an elevation in wages in other industries across York County. Housing, scarce in post-World War II York, started cropping up around the Caterpillar plant. And the York County Shopping Center, restaurants and other service-related businesses followed the people.
Caterpillar closed it down after a 17-month strike, which then affected a much-diminished total of 400 salaried workers and 600 hourly employees.
But the shutdown did not affect the parts facility across Memory Lane.
The York Daily Record/Sunday News reported this after the recent settlement of a six-year contract: The York County Caterpillar site, with about 250 employees, remains a parts distribution facility for Caterpillar and two third-party clients of Caterpillar Logistics, Land Rover and Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift of America.
A timeline of Caterpillar presence in York County:

1953: Caterpillar Tractor Co. opens in Springettsbury Township, offering workers $1.42 an hour. The company woos employees away from locally owned companies such as P.H. Glatfelter Co. in Spring Grove.
1954: The United Auto Workers organizes the company’s hourly workers. Caterpillar has 1,000 employees.
1970s: Local Caterpillar work force quadruples.
1980s: International competition, a strong dollar and a U.S. construction slump hits the company hard. It loses nearly $1 billion in a three-year stretch, triggering a massive cost-cutting effort and layoffs.
Oct. 1, 1982: More than 1,800 workers at the York County plant strike after the company refuses to renew their contracts for another three years. The strike affects 37,000 employees nationwide.

April 23, 1983:
Workers vote to approve a contract offer, ending a 6 1/2-month strike, the second-longest in company history.
December 1991: Caterpillar Inc. reveals the probable closing of the Springettsbury Township plant. Community leaders form ” Caterpillar Necessary in Pennsylvania” in an effort to stop the plant from closing.
June 21, 1994: Members of UAW Local 786 in Springettsbury Township walk off the job. The company keeps the plant operating by using a makeshift work force.
Dec. 3, 1995: UAW ends the 17-month long strike. Employees return to work under the terms of company-imposed contracts.
March 19, 1996: The company said it will begin closing its manufacturing division in York County because it’s not cost-competitive. The company said the local distribution warehouse will remain open.
1998: The company closes its manufacturing operations at the Springettsbury Township plant, affecting 400 salaried workers and 600 hourly employees.
December 1999: Springettsbury Township approves a flexible-development district that stretches between North Hills Road and Mt. Zion Road, north of East Market Street. The 300-acre zone, which includes Caterpillar’s manufacturing plant, allows for a mix of industrial, commercial, institutional, residential and agricultural uses on one property. Township and York County officials say the zone will help Caterpillar find a buyer for its vacant plant.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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2 Responses to Caterpillar – not the hairy, icky type – keeps presence in York County, Pa.

  1. Pingback: Mystery Solved: Commemorative Item From Caterpillar's 40th Anniversary

  2. Pingback: York County woman finds black widow spider among her refrigerated grapes | Learn How to be Prepared

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