Republican Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois got a big manufacturing industry boost Monday with the endorsement of Caterpillar Inc. Chairman Jim Owens.
Kirk, in a tight race against Democrat and state Treasurer Alex Giannoulias, picked up the endorsement while speaking at Caterpillar’s home base in Peoria.
Owens made news last year after President Obama visited the plant to tout his economic stimulus plan, saying that it would allow Caterpillar to rehire some of the thousands of workers it had laid off.
Owens later contradicted the president, saying that the company probably would have to lay off more staff before it started thinking about rehiring any laid-off workers.
The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines.
Kirk used his appearance in the central Illinois city to talk about lowering unemployment and opening new markets in Asia to expand American exports.
“Asia now is more important than Europe to our economic and security future,” Kirk said. “While much of our State and Defense Department assets are focused on Europe and the Middle East, Asia has already become America’s most important region for a generation.”
The unemployment rate is 9.5 percent nationally and 10.3 percent in Illinois.