Host Ed Sutkowski interviews the CEOs of Caterpillar Inc. who led the company out of its most difficult financial years to help it become one of the most successful companies in the world. In this episode, Ed talks with Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO from 2004-2010.
Jim, Caterpillar Inc.’s Chairman and CEO from February 2004 to mid-2010, hails from Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Athletically inclined, he displayed an early interest in track and football. Jim’s father ran a printing operation for a naval shipyard and his mother was a homemaker. A 1968 graduate of North Carolina State University, Jim earned a degree in textiles–the second largest USA manufacturing industry. A Master’s of Textiles in 1970 and a Ph.D. in Economics in 1973 followed.
Jim began his career at Cat in 1975 at age 26 as a chief economist with Caterpillar Overseas SA, Geneva, Switzerland. In 1975, Cat’s profits approximated $400 million. In 2004, Cat’s profits approximated $2+ billion at which time Cat experienced a global resurgence in economic activity and an insatiable demand from China for construction equipment – a market which was the subject of Jim’s focus during his early career. During Jim’s tenure, he orchestrated Cat’s movement to China rather than the Soviet Union. Jim will have served as CEO of Cat for more than six years; the tenure of a typical Cat CEO averages three years. His mission: to leave Cat better than he found it.
He has served as a member of the Manufacturing Council and as a board member of IBM, FM Global Insurance Company, Alcoa, Inc., and Global Advisory Council to the Conference Board.