Gates to expand operations in Iola

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

A reorganization of Gates Corporation means good news for the company’s plant in Iola.
Gates announced Tuesday that it will close its Boone, Iowa, plant this year as part of an effort to restructure its hydraulic hose coupled assembly facilities in North America.
Those hoses will now be assembled at the Iola plant and in Glade Spring, Va.
The reorganization has two main benefits for Iola, said Mark Cooper, manager of the Iola Gates plant.
First, it means the Iola plant will no longer need to lay off employees. More than 120 employees were laid off earlier this year, to pare the Iola plant’s work force to 365 employees.
“The long-term benefit is that it could mean as many as 150 to 200 additional jobs for Iola once the economy rebounds,” Cooper said.
Losing the Boone plant, “waters down” Cooper’s enthusiasm, but the company’s decision to reorganize and move the jobs to Iola reflects its support of the Iola plant, he said.
The Iola plant has assembled the coupled hoses previously, Cooper said, “but only for a while before we got away from it. Now, we’ll be doing more coupled hose assemblies than we’ve ever done before.”
In addition to the layoffs, the sluggish global economy and ongoing light demand for hydraulic hose has prompted Gates to continue its plantwide “work share” agreement, in which employees work fewer hours and have their incomes supplemented with unemployment benefits provided by the state.
In addition, the plant will shut down entirely for the first week of July, Cooper said.
The Iola facility hopes to eliminate the need for the work share benefits — and the return to the full 40-hour work week — within the next 60 days, Cooper said.

THE BOONE plant closing is expected to be complete late this year, according to a company press release.
“We are in a very competitive business, and in unprecedented economic times,” said David Gau, president of Gates Fluid Power. “We regret having to consider any plant closing and do not take this decision lightly. However, this action is necessary and important to drive operational efficiencies and enforce our leadership in the areas of service excellence to our ... customers.
“The closure is not a reflection on the performance of the Boone plant employees or plant operations,” he continued. “Boone has been in operation for a long time, and we respect and appreciate our long-standing relationship with our employees and the community.”
The Boone plant employs 110. Boone is due west of Ames.
Gates Corporation is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial and automotive products, systems and components with operations in 25 countries. Gates is part of the Industrial and Automotive group of Tomkins plc, a global engineering group.