Governor Bev Perdue calls the company one of the biggies, a global competitor the state fought to keep and expand in North Carolina.
In June, Lee County commissioners offered $900,000 in upfront spending for the corporate giant's $25 million expansion.
"To Sanford it's the magic carpet the road to prosperity," Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said. "It's the command module that's going to make our economy a lot better."
The 120 employees let go from Caterpillar's Clayton plant in May will be eligible to apply for the new jobs.
"We will welcome all talent," Caterpillar Vice President Mary Bell said. "We want people with the right talent."
However, Governor Perdue says that may or may not include all the 120 workers who lost their jobs.
"This is not charity or social work," she said. "This is one of your big global companies that are in this business to produce a product that will sell globally and make money and their workforce is going to meet those demands."
The Secretary of Commerce says Caterpillar has to produce the jobs to get the money and he says he feels those who were laid off should get first dibs, but there's no guarantee.
Caterpillar will start filling some of the new positions later this year with the average salary starting just under $40,000 a year. Expansion is set to open next summer.
Meanwhile last week, Caterpillar said it would build a new factory in Winston-Salem producing axle units for large mining equipment. City, county and state governments promised about $40 million to spur employment for about 500 full-time and contract workers.