Southwest Iowa was dealt a double blow with the announcement Tuesday of layoffs at two manufacturing plants in the area.

The Eaton Corporation confirmed that its Shenandoah plant would be closing sometime this year. Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association executive vice president, Gregg Connell, says the news of Eaton’s closing is no surprise, considering the company’s mass layoffs four years ago this month of 250 employees.

“And then we were told later that they were going to continues some gray line 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,” Connell says. 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,” Connell says, “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.”

Officials with Red Oak’s American Hydraulics plant also announced Tuesday that 56 workers were being laid off at its facility. Shawnna Silvius with the Montgomery County Development Corporation 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,” she says. “We want to get those folks re-employed, 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 one. “We know many of our employers are looking for quality workers,” Silvius says. “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.”

Montgomery County Development Corporation is hosting a Red Oak hiring fair event next Friday, February 21st from 1-4 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.

(By Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)