(Shenandoah-Red Oak) -- KMAland officials are searching for silver linings following a double blow to the region's economy.
Layoffs were announced at two local manufacturing plants on the same day. On Tuesday, officials with Eaton Corporation confirmed that its Shenandoah plant would be closing sometime this year. Gregg Connell is executive vice president of the Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association. Connell tells KMA News the news of Eaton's impending closing is no surprise, considering the company's mass layoffs four years ago this month.
"It was actually February 4th of 2016 when they made the announcement that they're closing the facility, and the 250 jobs that went with it," said Connell. "We were told later they were going to continue some gray iron machining, with maybe 50-60 employees. We were told that would probably last six months. We're glad that it lasted four years, but that doesn't lessen the impact on the employees, their families, and obviously, their communities."
While losing the rest of the company's workers is tough, Connell is already working on luring another company to the Eaton facility.
"You know, we're positive about the future," said Connell. "We are showing the Eaton building in the next few weeks to an out-of-state company. I can't give any more information than that, but it's a positive that we need to look at--even in the face of this negative news right now."
Also on Tuesday, officials with Red Oak's American Hydraulics plant announced 56 workers were being laid off at its facility. Shawnna Silvius is executive director for economic development with the Montgomery County Development Corporation. Silvius says the focus now is on finding new jobs for the idled employees.
"That obviously is our number-one," said Silvius. "We want to keep these families together without any hiccups as best we can. We want to get those folks reemployed, employed into meaningful employment with positions that they can grow in. And, sometimes it's an opportunity for folks to retrain, and enter a different career field."
Silvius hopes her agency can turn a negative situation into a positive.
"We know many of our employers are looking for quality workers," she said. "So, it can be a win-win. It's hard when it hits at first, and I guess the goal is for us to wrap around all these people, love them where they are, and try to help them and their families get transitioned into something new, and let's hopefully keep and retain those workers and those families in our community, and in our region."
Montgomery County Development Corporation is hosting a Red Oak hiring fair event next Friday, February 21st from 1-to-4 p.m. at Southwestern Community College's Red Oak campus. Iowa Workforce Development services will be available at the event, as well as other information for the displaced workers.