Caterpillar CEO: Immigration Key to Economic Growth

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Caterpillar Chairman
Scott Eisen/APCaterpillar Chairman and CEO Douglas R. Oberhelman

By Hailey Lee

Company growth depends on a healthy economy, which is made possible by embracing immigrants, Caterpillar (CAT) CEO Douglas Oberhelman said Wednesday.

As a growing economy boosts infrastructure, Caterpillar grows. “If you take a road, a pipeline, a bridge, whatever it is, we employ people in our factories to make that equipment. That’s what makes us go. We add jobs and we grow that way. And that’s a big piece of how we get out of this and raise our economic growth,” he said on “Squawk Box.”

Speaking from the Business Roundtable summit, Oberhelman also told CNBC that Caterpillar will “get a little healthier next year” but it depends on how well the economy will do. “We have a high correlation of 3 percent growth and job creation. Very simple. Almost in any economy in the world, when we see 3 percent GDP growth, we are adding jobs.” If the economy does not grow, the company will be flat and “we’ve been flat for the last two years in a row.”

But in order for the economy to grow, companies must have the ability to recruit the brightest minds in the world, which is only made possible by encouraging immigration.

“We need growth. Look at Japan, no immigration, dropping 20 million people in the next few years, dead economy. These people could help us grow the economy. It’s a big piece of what we need to do,” he said.

Caterpillar faces challenges in finding qualified people to hire for highly skilled trades such as service technicians. “We bring [immigrants] in here, we educate them, give them internships, co-ops, we send them back home. Five years later, we see these same folks across the table from us with our competitors. I’d like to keep them here,” he said.

Oberhelman added that cheap oil is boosting the economy — arguably more effectively than a Fed stimulus.

“It’s a wonderful thing for us if we apply this right. No Federal Reserve bank here, Japan, China, could drop a stimulus package in our laps like the oil price drop,” he said.

“Lower energy and inexpensive energy made this country what it is. We had the most abundant energy sources for 100 years. I would like to say we have a renaissance of manufacturing ahead of us as this comes back.”

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