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When Eaton Corp.’s 140,000-square-foot factory opened in September 1969 it churned out 12 million engine valves per year for its sole customer, Ford Motor Co. Today, the plant produces 80 million engine valves per year and 7 million gears, and they’re used by multiple customers around the globe.

KEARNEY — The Eaton Yale and Towne Corp. dedicated its $13 million, 140,000-square-foot engine valve plant in Kearney 50 years ago on Sept. 12, 1969. Present for the dedication were Nebraska Gov. Norbert Tiemann, chairman of the board for Eaton Yale and Towne Corp. E. Mandell deWindt and plant manager Don Roberts.

Eaton expected to produce about 6,000 engine valves per hour, or 12 million annually. Today, the Kearney plant’s output is 80 million engine valves per year and 7 million gears per year.

Other news tidbits from the Kearney Daily Hub’s coverage about the dedication:

1. Kearney was announced as the site of the plant in January 1969.

2. Three of the plant’s three forge presses were in operation when the plant opened. The forge presses were worth $100,000 each.

3. A single production line was in operation.

4. deWindt complained to Tiemann about the state’s 2 percent sales tax on manufacturing goods, saying it was a “high price to pay for coming to Nebraska.”

5. The plant’s annual payroll would be $2.5 million to $3 million.

6. Ford Motor Co. was the plant’s sole customer.