February 22 - The ease of accessing the major ports of Savannah and Charleston on the US East Coast has been cited by construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar as a major factor in its decision to site a new manufacturing facility in Georgia.

The 100,000 sq m facility will create some 1,400 jobs in Athens, Georgia. The university city joins a number of locations in the state, Toccoa, Pendergrass, LaGrange, Griffin, Barnesville, Atlanta, Patterson and Thomasville, where Caterpillar has plants.

The proximity of the ports is important as the some 40 percent of the tractors and excavators built at the plant will be exported, primarily to South America and Western Europe, company officials told the local media.

In November, Peoria, Illinois.-based Caterpillar announced plans to shift production from Japan and open a new manufacturing facility in North America to produce small tractors and excavators. The company said its goal was to move production of the equipment closer to its customers in North America and Europe. This is in line with a trend developing in the United States to return manufacturing from off-shore locations.