Gits Manufacturing plant in Creston — an employment fixture here for just shy of 70 years — is permanently closing. The company made the closure official Monday when they informed Creston Mayor Warren Woods via letter.
In all, 78 local jobs will be lost because of the closure. The first round of terminations is expected on or about Nov. 18. The entire business site is expected to be "lights out" and closed by the summer of 2014.
"It's absolutely disappointing," said Wayne Pantini, Union County Development Association executive director. "Anytime people lose employment it becomes a difficult situation for them and their family. Also, a closure like this is also tough on the community, especially when you lose a pillar industry like Gits Manufacturing who has been here since 1945."
Gits employees in Creston primarily manufacture airflow valves for diesel engines and turbo charger applications.
However, production for those products will now be made by employees in plants in Juarez, Mexico, and Taicang, China.
"It's certainly upsetting," said Woods. "It's a tough deal for the employees and for the city of Creston, because Gits is a long-standing fixture in our community and always been a good partner for the city. But, unfortunately, there isn't much we can do about it. Them moving these jobs out of the country is a sign of the times. Hopefully, someday, those jobs can stay here (in the United States.)"
Terminations at Gits Manufacturing plant in Creston will be done in five stages. Those terminations are expected to be in November, December, January and March. The final terminations are expected in June 2014 with the lights being turned off that day.
"There were a number of factors taken into consideration regarding the closure of the Creston plant," said Karen Bauer, communication and investor-relations leader for Actuant/Gits Manufacturing Company. "It was a combination of looking at where our customers and growth is located, economic environment, as well as several other factors."
Bauer said 15 "office" employees at the Creston plant — including financing and engineering employees — will be able to keep their jobs and transfer to the company's Urbandale office.
Drop in jobs
In 2005, Pantini said Gits Manufacturing plant in Creston employed somewhere between 100 and 125 manufacturing employees. However, over the past eight years the headcount dwindled to 78 manufacturing employees.
"I'm not aware they ever had any layoffs," Pantini said. "The reduction of employees over the years mostly came through attrition. They were just not filling positions."
Pantini said he was notified and has been preparing for the closure of Gits Manufacturing in Creston. Pantini and others plan to meet with Gits employees for a rapid response meeting today. (See sidebar story)
In that meeting, Pantini said he will communicate what other options they have for employment in Creston, as well as their opportunity to gain addition skills and/or education.
"We want to make this as smooth of a transition as possible for them," Pantini said. Pantini said the advantage to living in this region of the state is unemployment is down "at about 4.7 percent" and other businesses are hiring. Pantini said the key is for the employees and community is to stay positive.
"The most important thing is, we as a community, need to stay positive for the workers involved," Pantini said. "We need to give them support and know that we will bounce back from this."
HISTORY LESSON: Snowstorm, hospitality leads to Gits Manufacturing opened in Creston in 1945
Mr. Remi Gits established Gits Brothers Manufacturing Co. in Chicago, Illinois in 1910. The first products for Gits were lubricating devices and oil cups, and in early advertising they claimed to be the "Original Designers of the Practical Spring Hinge Cup."
In 1944, story has it, Gits was traveling via train to Chicago after vacationing in Colorado. He was forced to stay overnight in Creston, Iowa because of a terrible snowstorm and was so overwhelmed by the hospitality toward him and the helpfulness of the Creston people, that he decided to open an assembly plant in Creston.
In February of 1945, Gits began operation in Creston in the old junior high school building at 215 N. Elm St. with six oil cup assembly machines and the same number of employees.
Today, Gits employees manufacture airflow valves for diesel engines and turbo charger applications.
However Monday, after almost 70 years in Creston, it was announced Gits Manufacturing in Creston would be closing permanently. The production for those products will now be made by employees in plants in Juarez, Mexico, and Taicang, China.
The first round of terminations is expected on or about Nov. 18. The entire business site is expected to be “lights out” and closed by the summer of 2014.
SWCC joins rapid-response partnership for Gits employees
Southwestern Community College, along with Work Force Development, Union County Development and management from Gits Manufacturing partnered for a rapid-response meeting 10 a.m. today. Gits announced Monday via letter the Creston site would be closing permanently. 78 local jobs will be affected by the closure.
SWCC's Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management Terri Higgins and Admissions Coordinator/Recruiter Caitlyn Lesan along with other faculty and staff led a presentation to Gits employees about the opportunities available at SWCC.
"Our purpose in the meeting will be to talk about programs of study, start dates for the semester, how to apply for financial aid and to get a better idea of a timeline to help accommodate potential students," Higgins said.
Lesan added one- to two-year programs in career and technical education such as electrical, welding, carpentry and automotive are popular because of the short time it takes to learn a new trade and return to work.
"Today, we are sharing what the partners have to offer to employees in this situation," Higgins said. "This will be informational for us, too."