Eaton Changes Could Mean More Jobs for Kearney, Hastings

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Big changes are coming to a manufacturing company with locations in two of the tri-cities.

Right now Eaton Manufacturing's Kearney plant makes both engine valves and gears. But in order to meet a growing demand for a new kind of valve, the plant will be sending its gear work down the road to Hastings.

"We're going to be relocating the gear machining operation to the Eaton Hastings facility, and in that floor space once the machining is out we will be installing additional capacity [in Kearney]," says Kearney Plant Manager Kris Baldwin.

Eaton says the growth in Kearney is caused partly by the higher demand for hollow engine valves, something that auto manufacturers are using to achieve fuel efficiency standards.

"As fuel economy becomes more important, auto manufacturers are trying to reduce the weight of the vehicle and by making hollow valves that can contribute to the overall weight of the engine," says Baldwin.

Baldwin says auto-makers are also looking for engine parts that can survive in higher temperatures and meet emission standards too.

And depending on how quickly both Hastings and Kearney can master the new manufacturing technology, both facilities may be adding jobs.

"There's potential, yes, both at this location and at the Hastings facility," says Baldwin. "But it really depends on customer demand."

As those demands have been shifting some companies in other manufacturing and processing sectors have been moving out of the midwest and closer to home-based facilities. But Eaton Vehicle Group officials say they enjoy doing business in central Nebraska and want to stay.

"It's been a very good fit for us both in terms of identifying a skilled workforce [and] the communities that we operate in," says Eaton's Business Communication Manager Jim Michels. "It's worked out extremely well for us over the years."

Eaton expects to start transferring gear work to Hastings this summer and hopes to have all the changes finished by the end of 2014.