Why Peoria?


By Phil Harwood

Peoria, IL. This is the location of this year’s Snowfighters Institute Inner Circle. But why Peoria? It all has to do with the Caterpillar Corporation, our sponsor.  

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From 1930 until recently, Peoria was the global headquarters of Caterpillar, Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment. But why Peoria? It all has to do with a man named Murray Baker. 

Baker was a businessman from Peoria, IL who owned a farm implement company. Caterpillar traces its roots back to the 1890s as the Holt Manufacturing Co. was manufacturing steam tractor machines. Baker approached Holt about buying an idle factor building in Peoria to expand its manufacturing capabilities, gain better access to international shipping, and East coast steel. Plus, the idle factory came with a skilled workforce. Baker brokered the deal. 

In 1910, Caterpillar opened up its Peoria plant with 12 employees. Only two years later, the company employed 625 people and were shipping tractors internationally. 

Baker became the plant’s manager and led the company’s move into earthmoving by creating the “Caterpillar Trail” to showcase the company’s ability to build roads. By the 1920s, Caterpillar was marketing itself as the “Nation’s Roadbuilder.” The “Caterpillar Trail” today is Illinois route 116. 

In the 1920s, Baker helped negotiate a deal between Caterpillar and its leading competitor. Their merger resulted in the relocation of Caterpillar’s global headquarters to Peoria in 1930. 

Caterpillar continued its global expansion through a series of acquisitions, organic growth, technology, and product innovations. Today, Caterpillar is one of the largest U.S. employers with over 100,000 people and is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

As you can imagine, Peoria developed along with Caterpillar to cater to both executives and factory workers: one of our nation’s hidden jewels. Despite the company moving its headquarters to Texas, Peoria continues to thrive. 

Snowfighters Institute will be arriving Tuesday, April 23 to the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette hotel, where we have secured a great room block rate. The group will have a networking dinner Tuesday evening. 

Wednesday and Thursday are devoted to interactive education. The state-of-the-art Caterpillar Visitor’s Center is our host location. Group discussions are supplemented with a facility tour, networking breakfasts and lunches, and interactions with our many sponsors who will also be in attendance. Another group networking dinner will be held Wednesday. Inner Circle concludes Thursday at 5:00 pm. 

We intentionally limit the number of attendees for Inner Circle. Last year, we sold out a month before the event and expect to do so again this year. In other words, if you’re interested, now is the time to register. Our registration system is open and so is the hotel room block. 

Hope to see you in Peoria! 

Now go forth. 

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