The local push to keep Caterpillar Inc. in York County has been met with some resistance.

Caterpillar officials last week confirmed the Illinois-based manufacturer might close its York Distribution Center.

Since then, local business leaders have reached out to the company, hoping to keep the plant's 250 jobs in the region, according to Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

"At this point, they don't want to engage in any formal dialogue with any members of the community," he said.

Smeltzer said he's been emailing back and forth with Caterpillar's chief corporate spokesman and has not been able to reach anyone at the local distribution center at 600 Memory Lane in Springettsbury Township.

"It leads me to believe they're far along with their decision, whatever it is," he said.

Local Caterpillar employees were told in September that the company was contemplating a sourcing decision to move or shift the processing of dealer stock and emergency parts orders to another facility in the eastern United States, company spokesman Jim Dugan said in an email.

Caterpillar intends to finalize the decision by the end of March, he said.

If the company closes the York facility, the move would take effect in 2014, he said.

Dugan said he had no further response when asked why the move is being considered, and Smeltzer said he hasn't been able to get a reason either.

The heavy-equipment manufacturer closed a much larger local facility in the mid-1990s, eliminating 1,100 jobs. Most of those jobs were held by members of the United Auto Workers union, which had years of difficult contract negotiations and strikes, including one that lasted 15 months.

The 126-acre plant site at 601 Memory Lane was sold in 2002 for about $10 million and became the York Business Center.

Smeltzer remembers Caterpillar's previous cuts and doesn't want to see any more job loss in York County.

"We were hoping for more communication from them. It's a bit odd that the company didn't reach out to anyone at the state or local level," he said.

Caterpillar first opened its York operations in 1955, and has never had a strong relationship with the York County Economic Alliance or its predecessor Economic Development Corp, said Darrell Auterson, president of the YCEA.

"We've tried, but that close, working relationship just never existed," he said.

The YCEA, in collaboration with Smeltzer, will continue to try to get an audience with Caterpillar, Auterson said.

"There's a concerted, united effort to get an audience with (Caterpillar) officials. We want to establish a dialogue and do whatever we can at the local level - and possibly leverage state resources - to keep those jobs here," he said.

Local officials are also getting some help from a federal legislator.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., sent a letter to Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar, encouraging him to keep jobs in York County.

Like local officials, the senator asked Oberhelman to contact him if he could be any assistance at keeping the operations in York.

He also said he looked forward to any opportunity to develop any options or use any federal programs that may be relevant to protecting the jobs at stake and Caterpillar's presence in the region.

"This facility provides 250 quality jobs to the York community and could have a significant impact if it were to be lost," Casey said in the letter.

- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.