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OWATONNA, Minn. -Some unwelcome economic news hit Owatonna Thursday with word that Caterpillar Inc. will close its plant in Owatonna, a move that will cost the community about 100 jobs.

Caterpillar Inc. notified employees Thursday it is closingthe plant and consolidating operations within its forestry business. Production will end at the Owatonna facility by March 1, 2013. Caterpillar is offering employees at Owatonna a severance package and will work with appropriate agencies on finding those workers new opportunities.

"We value our employees' contributions, and these actions are not a reflection of them, but rather the result of a need to make our business more efficient and competitive," said John Carpenter, president of Caterpillar's Forest Products Division. "We understand these decisions will be difficult for the lives of many of our workers and their families, and we genuinely regret that."

Minnesota state agencies and other officials were notified of the closureunder the United States Department of Labor's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

Some engineering work will remain in the Owatonna area.

Forest products currently made in Owatonna will transition to other Caterpillar Forest Products plants in Prentice, Wis. and LaGrange, Ga.

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