KEARNEY — For the 1,000 people at Kearney’s Baldwin Filters who have been wondering how the pending change in ownership of their company will affect them and their jobs, the wait is nearly finished.
Parker Hannifin’s $4.3 billion purchase of Baldwin’s parent, CLARCOR Corp., is expected to close on Tuesday, based on comments earlier this week by Parker Hannifin CEO Thomas Williams.
On Thursday, CLARCOR shareholders overwhelmingly voted to approve the merger, which will result in the Franklin, Tenn.-based CLARCOR becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Parker, headquartered in Cleveland.
The deal marks the second time Baldwin Filters has changed hands. The filter manufacturer’s founder, J.A. Baldwin, started the company in 1936, but sold it to CLARCOR in 1981 after he suffered a stroke and heart attack. Since then, Baldwin Filters has grown steadily, manufacturing and selling after-market oil filtration products in the United States and in every continent around the world.
In 2015, Baldwin opened a $40 million, 421,000-square-foot distribution center in Kearney.
Because Baldwin and its parent CLARCOR focus on the after-market, the company is a “fantastic” complement to Parker Hannifin, which specializes in motion and control technology products sold to manufacturers as original equipment, Parker CEO Williams said at an investors conference in Miami.
“It’s fantastic, this is a property we’ve looked at really the last 10 years. Finally for a variety of reasons we’re able to connect here,” Williams said at Barclays Capital Industrial Select Conference. Williams’ comments are available as a podcast on the Parker Hannifin website.
“We’re excited. CLARCOR is 80 percent after-market. It has higher margins than the parent, higher growth rates than Parker averages, so it’s incremental in so many ways,” Williams said.
Williams told shareholders and prospective investors at the Miami conference that orders are stronger, causing him to feel cautiously optimistic. “The worst is behind us as far as the industrial downturn of the past two years; 2017 is going to be a dynamite year for us. There’s going to be a lot going on.”
Parker has trimmed its labor force from 59,000 people four years ago to 48,000 today — not counting CLARCOR’s 6,000 — and has focused on fostering a culture of ownership among employees and improving experiences for its customers.
“When you get engagement and ownership, you get better financial performance,” Williams said. “Owners think differently than employees. What we’re trying to do is create a lot of new owners in the company.”
Parker has changed how it measures customer satisfaction. “We went to a customer service metric to a customer experience metric: ‘Would you recommend Parker to a colleague?’”
Parker’s intent to purchase CLARCOR was announced in December. At the time, Aidan Gormley, Parker’s director, global communications and branding, said senior leaders from both companies would form an “integration team to determine how to best bring the two businesses together.”
Gormley would not comment for this story, but said more information would be available after the merger is complete. Attempts to obtain comments from Baldwin and CLARCOR were unsuccessful.
In addition to the Baldwin facility in Kearney, Parker’s other Nebraska plants will be in Gothenburg, McCook, Alliance and Lincoln.