James W. Owens is getting ready to hand over the keys to his corner office at Caterpillar.
The North Carolina native with numerous ties to N.C. State University plans to retire next fall as CEO and chairman of the world's largest manufacturer of earth-moving equipment.
Owens, 63, will remain CEO through July 1 and chairman until Oct. 31. The Illinois company today named his successor: Douglas R. Oberhelman, 56, who joined Caterpillar in 1975.
The succession plan comes as Caterpillar is restructuring its operations to account for a global sales slump during the recession. That change is likely to include additional lost jobs locally. The company employs about 1,800 in Cary, Sanford and Clayton. Caterpillar has already laid off or furloughed hundreds of local workers as it looks to cut costs.
“Doug's expertise in all critical facets of our business, combined with his international business experience in Asia and Latin America, and his relentless focus on execution and results make him uniquely qualified to lead Caterpillar in today's global economy,” Owens said in a prepared statement.
Alas, Oberhelman doesn't have Owens' Tar Heel history. For starters, his undergraduate degree is from Milikin University in Decatur, Ill., and he serves on that school's board of trustees.
Owens is a native of Elizabeth City who is serving a four-year term on N.C. State's board of trustees. He joined Caterpillar in 1972 as a corporate economist and earned a doctorate in economics from N.C. State in 1973.
Owens also sits on the boards of IBM and Alcoa.