For an event that was filled with town dignitaries and residents, only the skydivers were prevented from experiencing the new Little Elm Holt Cat facility last week.
Complete with motivational speakers, extravagant lunch items, merchandise giveaways and even the unveiling of a personalized street sign, officials at the headquarters for Caterpillar and other heavy machinery cut the ribbon during its grand opening to the delight of Little Elm and Denton County representatives.
Originally approved for construction in Little Elm for 2008 and, after the country's economic recovery, again in 2012, the new 61,000 square-foot, full-service facility finally opened off of Highway 380 and represents the ninth Holt Cat location in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Army Sergeant First Class and acclaimed motivational speaker Dana Bowman was going to perform a skydiving show at the grand opening, but heavy wind conditions forced a cancellation. That didn't dampen the mood of Bowman, a former engineer and heavy-machinery operator.
"Caterpillar and the heavy machinery industry has always been there for me and my family," he said. "And Caterpillar and Holt Cat are always at the front of the line with hiring former military members. It's a values-based company."
As well as working with Caterpillar, Bowman served as a paratrooper in the United States Army. In 1994, while serving as a member of an elite parachute team, a mid-air collision cost Bowman both of his legs. He never slowed down, expanding his interest in skydiving and traveling the world giving motivational messages. To his point, Holt employs more than 350 veterans -- or, 17 percent of its workforce.
Peter Holt, Holt Cat chief executive officer, was also at the event and spoke highly of the company's future partnership with Little Elm and Denton County.
"There's a huge level of commitment from everyone who works at Holt Cat," he said. "I'm excited about putting down roots in Little Elm, one of the fastest-growing cities in Texas."
Added Dave Harris, Holt Cat president: "Investments in construction and infrastructure here in Little Elm are driving an ever-increasing demand for [Caterpillar and CAT] heavy equipment services."
The $14 million Little Elm facility features machinery and parts that serve the construction, industrial, oil and gas and paving industries. Approximately 2,600 employees work for Holt Cat in Texas, and the Little Elm location now has 60 new employees, many of them from the Little Elm area. This specific facility encompasses LEED features such as high-efficiency lighting, water capture cisterns, drip irrigation systems and environmentally-friendly building materials, according to officials.
Town manager Matt Mueller added that Holt Cat and Little Elm are "a perfect match."
"Little Elm is a very special community, focused on growth," he said. "We've gone from a small fork in the road, 15 years ago, to one of the largest-growing areas in the country. Having Holt Cat here is going to be fantastic -- we've even already bought loading equipment from you guys. I think the town was Holt Cat's first customer."
The facility is located at 27600 East University Drive (U.S. Highway 380), just east of the intersection at FM 1385. For continuing coverage of Little Elm news, visit starlocalmedia.com.