Eaton cutting ties in Jackson County

Eaton Corp. operates out of two facilities in Jackson County.
Eaton Corp. operates out of two facilities in Jackson County.

GAINESBORO – Eaton Corp., an Upper Cumberland hydraulics manufacturer, is laying off nearly 100 employees and closing up shop in Gainesboro.

The company notified the state last week that it’s cutting a total of 93 jobs – the total sum of its workforce in Jackson County, officials say.

The Gainesboro operation, split between two buildings on North Grundy Quarles Highway, is in Eaton’s struggling hydraulics division; locally, workers manufacture steel and brass fittings used in hydraulic and fluid conveyance applications.

Bobby Kinnaird, Jackson County mayor, said it was an ominous warning last year when Eaton only agreed to a one-year lease on the building it rents. The company owns the other factory facility in town.

“It’s a big blow to our economy, and our workforce, too,” Kinnaird told the UCBJ. “They just told us they could get the parts cheaper than they could make them, so they were going to close these two factories down. Eaton was one of our best paying jobs, too, nearly double some (others).”

Eaton may have another party interested in occupying the building it owns, Kinnaird said. The mayor also said state officials are helping promote the other, which is about 44,000 square feet. The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) also will offer its assistance to affected employees, he added.

He said Eaton represents 40 percent of the county’s manufacturing workforce. And at last report, their unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, among the highest in the region.

“We don’t have that much manufacturing here. A lot of our workers work in Cookeville, Lebanon, and places like that,” Kinnaird said. “I’d say 75 percent go out of county to work. I’m hoping we can get somebody back in those buildings pretty quick. That will take care of a lot of the problems.”

Eaton’s worst-performing segment appears to be hydraulics – the result of waning demand for heavy machinery, like mining and farm equipment. The company last week reported its fourth quarter earnings, and that segment was down 18 percent year-over-year while operating profits were down 24 percent from the fourth quarter of 2014.

The company is spending $140 million on restructuring efforts in 2016, it said. It closed eight plants and eliminating some 2,900 positions last year.

Eaton said the layoffs in Gainesboro are effective March 26. Employees at the facility are not represented by a collective bargaining agreement.

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