Archive for February, 2005

No new product lines in Newton this year

February 23, 2005

By PETER HUSSMANN
Editor

Steve Ingham is not a detective, nor has he played one on TV. But he might as well be Joe Friday when he discusses “just the facts” surrounding Maytag’s manufacturing state of affairs.
Will a new laundry product line be launched in Newton this year?
“No,” the senior vice president of manufacturing for the corporation’s new One Company operation says matter-of-factly.
Will one ever?
“Don’t know,” he says.
What he does know is that Maytag faces some profound challenges as it attempts to rebound from a net loss of $14.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2004 compared to net income of $23.9 million the year before and a full-year loss of $9 million compared with net income of $120 million in 2003.
That fact doesn’t do much to stem the uncertainty in the community surrounding Maytag’s future. With 156 more layoffs at the plant just last week, employment levels are down about half from the 2,500 workers employed in production operations as recently as 2002. The layoffs impacted workers with as much as eight years’ seniority.
But Ingham says the facts, and the knowledge of those facts, will be what will lead Maytag to better things.
“We have to attack it with knowledge,” Ingham says as the new overseer  of the bulk of Maytag’s manufacturing operations worldwide.
The year past — financially and emotionally — was one Maytag would probably like to put behind. The closure of its Galesburg, Ill., refrigerator manufacturing facility, with production moving to Mexico and its Amana operation in Iowa, left 1,600 people without jobs. The restructuring of its operation to bring Maytag Appliances and Hoover under the corporate umbrella eliminated 20 percent of its salaried workforce, with the bulk of the 1,100 jobs lost occurring in Newton and North Canton, Ohio. A four-week labor strike idled Maytag production in Newton and left the community holding its collective breath.
The eventual four-year labor agreement reached, however, was not enough to pull the local operation from the banned list for new product lines. Employment levels at the factory have continued to dwindle, with the latest layoff occurring last Friday, pushing employment seniority levels back as far as 1997. A settlement was reached — costing the company millions — in a class-action lawsuit over mold and mildew and electrical problems associated with early generation Newton manufactured horizontal-axis Neptune washer models. As can be seen, the Lonely Repairman faced a barrage of unflattering reports that tested not only the mettle of the organization but its standing in some of the communities it calls home.
Maytag, however, moved forward.
“We have addressed our challenges head on and have taken decisive steps to improve Maytag’s performance going forward,” said Maytag Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hake following January’s release of last year’s performance.
The challenges Maytag faces are many: spiraling production costs, spiked by increases in steel and oil prices; an influx of foreign competition, especially acute in the high-efficiency washer platform, an area Maytag once held nearly alone; pricing points at or below those 30 years ago (a Maytag Neptune cost approximately $1,100 when brought on the market in 1997. The same type machine costs about $900 today); and potential changes in its sales venue due to the merger of Sears and Kmart and the elimination of Best Buy as an outlet for Maytag major appliances. All this leaves One Company officials walking a tightrope as they work to bring the stock price up from the $16 levels seen today, about half of what it was a year ago.
Ingham doesn’t shirk from these facts. In fact, he encourages the discussion.
“It’s incumbent upon people to educate themselves on the business climate,” he said. “If they take the time to educate themselves, it may help guide them.”
The first principle to that end, Ingham says, is to understand that Maytag is in the business to anticipate, respond and meet the customers’ demands.
“We have to be focused on the market,” Ingham said. “We have to have viable products.”
And his job is to ensure those products brought to market within the 11 production facilities involved in major appliance operations are done so in such a manner as to enable Maytag  to compete in the global marketplace.
The fact, Ingham says, is that Newton remains Maytag’s highest cost plant in terms of its ability to meet cost, quality, safety and delivery parameters. That fact continues to preclude Newton from gaining new product platforms and likely portends continued declines in employment levels at its Newton plant.
Strides, Ingham notes, have been made at the Newton plant in bringing its cost, quality, safety and delivery structure in line with corporate expectations. He said one of Newton’s Lean Sigma manufacturing approaches is being used company-wide now, while some “ambitious changes” have been made to improve dryer operations and to some finishing systems.
“The most important task in Newton is to improve our performance every day,” Ingham said. “Nothing is more important than doing a good job today.  We need to be cognizant that we need to meet the customer’s requirements. We’re being up front, and I’m very pleased by the way that message is being carried down to the workers. People want to contribute.”

Maytag named Energy Star award winner

February 23, 2005
Maytag named Energy Star award winner
 
Date February 23, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
Special to the Daily News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy have awarded Maytag Corporation a 2005 National Product Campaign Award. As a partner in the ENERGY STAR program, Maytag has made outstanding contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by bringing information about ENERGY STAR to America’s consumers. Maytag‘s accomplishments will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on March 15.

Maytag, a partner in the program since 1997, will be honored for its leadership role in the annual ENERGY STAR Appliance Promotion. The national promotion encourages consumers to help our country remove old, inefficient appliances from our electric grid and, when making a replacement, to choose appliances that have earned the ENERGY STAR to save energy and money.

Maytag offers an extensive laundry lineup — including more high-efficiency washers than any other brand, saving consumers money in water and energy every year.

Most people don’t realize that their home can be responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions as their car. Last year alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved about $10 billion on their energy bills while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 20 million cars.

“ENERGY STAR is a great fit for us,” said David Steiner, vice president, governmental affairs, Maytag. “By offering customers products that have earned the ENERGY STAR, we give them resource-friendly product choices that also meet their demand for quality and features.”

The National Product Campaign Award is given to organizations that have done an outstanding job of leveraging ENERGY STAR’s national product campaigns to educate consumers about the many benefits of making energy-efficient product choices for the home. Award winners are selected from hundreds of organizations that participate in the national product campaigns initiated by the EPA and DOE.

“As an ENERGY STAR partner, Maytag does a great job of demonstrating how organizations can help consumers choose resource-efficient products that save them money and make a difference for our environment,” said Kathleen Hogan, director of EPA’s Climate Protection Partnerships Division. “Thanks to Maytag‘s leadership and the participation of other organizations across the country who promoted ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers in 2004, our country is realizing an annual savings of more than 320 million gallons of water and 22 million KwH of energy. We’re glad to have Maytag on board to make this kind of savings possible.”

ENERGY STAR was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary market-based partnership to reduce air pollution through increased energy efficiency. Today, with assistance from the Department of Energy, the ENERGY STAR program offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to save energy, money and help protect the environment for future generations. More than 7,000 organizations have become ENERGY STAR partners and are committed to improving the energy efficiency of products, homes and businesses.

Chasing smokestacks a waste of time

February 23, 2005
Chasing smokestacks waste of time
 
Date February 23, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
by Sen. Dennis Black  
 
As I ponder the recent past, it becomes readily apparent that economic development initiatives of communities, counties and state government have not been very successful. I shudder to think of the amount of time and effort expended to entice enterprise to come to Iowa from other states. Heretofore, the emphasis across the country has been that of “chasing smokestacks.” Frankly, I think that’s a waste of time. With what is occurring nationwide, major domestic industry has had to significantly alter their plans for growth, for the “global competition” factor has changed the face of doing business.

I’m convinced the best thing we can do is grow our communities from within. There should be no question as to our area’s assets, for they are evident wherever you go. How fortunate we are to have one of only two Iowa-based Fortune 500 companies located in our community. Add to that Thombert and The Vernon Company, and then dozens of smaller industries that employ our citizens.

Tremendous health care facilities, great schools, the finest small-town library I’ve ever seen, jet-friendly airport with fixed-base operation, aircraft maintenance and hangar space and room to grow. An underused Intermodal Railroad facility on the highly successful Iowa Interstate Railroad and the adjacent transportation corridor of I-80 with its potential are both assets that have far greater potential to Newton and all of Jasper County than most folks realize.

We need to “think tank” the dilemma being faced in our community. Unemployment is unnaturally high, our youth are leaving to find employment, and more layoffs at Maytag combine to cast a haze on the future. But this storm can be weathered, as have many in the past. No, we just can’t sit idly by and expect things to improve, for good fortune comes only to those willing to sacrifice their time and God-given talents of creative thinking. Won’t someone, please, seize this moment and be a catalyst for progress. I’ll participate in any way requested, but the initiative must come from within. Everyone’s ideas are important, but we must have a venue to focus those ideas into a plan, one compatible with our assets, and a plan that can be implemented.

County Leaders at Capitol

Rep. Bell and I were pleased to join a group of county leaders on Thursday for conversation regarding pending legislation. Paramount was concern as to the legislature’s plans on property tax reimbursements to local governments.

Governor Vilsack’s budget recommended reimbursements of 80 percent of what the state historically committed to city and county property tax relief. At that figure, the City of Newton would receive $270,000 from the State of Iowa and Jasper County would receive $400,000.

An additional $20 million from the state coffers would allow state government to stand by their promise to local governments with 100 percent reimbursement, whereby Newton would receive $338,000 and Jasper County $500,000.

The detail of the state budget is starting to take shape. As would be expected, demands far, far exceed available revenue. Local budgets must be certified within a month, and leadership in both the House and Senate must be open and honest with local leaders so the process can advance.

My vote will go to fully funding our commitments in property tax reimbursements. For the state to do otherwise only enforces the public perception that government can’t be trusted.

I solicit your ideas on the issues before your state government. Call me at the Capitol at (515) 281-3371; write me at the Senate Chambers, Capitol, Des Moines, 50319; or email dennis.black@legis.state.ia.us I personally answer every call and e-mail, and will respond to your letters.

Supreme Court denies Amana appeal of $10 million judgement

February 23, 2005
Supreme Court denies Amana appeal of $10 million judgement
 
Date February 23, 2005
Section(s) Business
Brief  
 
By DAVID PITT

Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a $10 million judgment against Amana Appliances in a lawsuit alleging the company defrauded a distributor.

The justices, without comment, on Tuesday let stand a lower court ruling in favor of Eden Electrical, Ltd., a family owned company in Israel with a chain of 27 appliance stores.

Eden struck a deal in 1998 to become Amana’s exclusive distributor of refrigerators in Israel. As part of the deal, Eden had to put up $2.4 million for inventory, court records said.

Eden representatives personally delivered a check for $1.2 million and a letter of credit in the same amount to Amana executives in Iowa when the deal was signed, documents said.

Amana secretly struck another deal with another Israeli distributor on the same day, Kevin Collins, the Cedar Rapids attorney representing Eden, has said.

He said Amana had sought out a company with cash and planned to unload obsolete inventory then quickly terminate the relationship.

According to court records, Amana executives ignored further communications and sent a letter terminating the relationship 77 days later.

Itzhak Eden and other company owners sued in U.S. District Court, accusing Amana of fraud.

Amana argued in court that the cancellation was a business decision made after the relationship began to unravel.

After a 13-day trial, a jury awarded Eden $2.1 million in compensation and nearly $18 million in punitive damages. The court reduced the punitive award to $10 million, more in line with other cases that have resulted in economic harm but not personal injury.

Amana appealed, arguing it was excessive and Eden appealed, saying it wasn’t enough.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that the $10 million award was not out of line.

“This was an extraordinarily reprehensible scheme to defraud,” the court wrote, noting that top executives, including a company vice president, were in on the plan.

Amana was purchased by Newton-based Maytag Corp. in 2001 and is now a division of Maytag.

“While we were disappointed with the results we will comply with the ruling,” said Maytag spokeswoman Karen Lynn. “This is not expected to have a material impact on our long-term financial condition.”

Amana attorney Edward Mansfield, of Des Moines, was in depositions Tuesday and unavailable for comment, his secretary said.

Eden’s attorney Kevin Collins, of Cedar Rapids, said he talked to Itzhak Eden on Tuesday. He said Eden trusted the American justice system.

“He never doubted that an American jury would agree that Amana’s actions were deplorable,” Collins said. “It’s the end of the road and it’s time to pay up.”

Maytag layoffs continue; 156 more workers to leave Friday

February 17, 2005
Maytag layoffs continue; 156 more workers to leave Friday
 
Date February 17, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
Maytag will lay off about 156 workers at its Newton plant effective at the end of work shifts on Friday, union officials said.

Pat Teed, president of Newton United Auto Workers Local 997, said Wednesday that the workers were named in a layoff list posted in Newton factories, including its main plant in the city of 15,600. The layoffs, which includes 48 maintenance positions, will put the Newton production work force at around 1,275 workers, compared with around 2,500 as recently as 2002.

Workers hired as far back as 1997 are impacted by the latest layoff.

Maytag confirmed earlier this month that the layoffs were planned but declined to disclose the number of workers to be idled because of competitive reasons.

Karen Lynn, a Maytag spokeswoman, has said the layoffs are necessary because the Newton-based company plans to reduce production of some product lines to avoid building up inventories. The plant manufactures Neptune, Atlantis and Dependable Care lines of washers and companion dryers. A new 27-inch Neptune model scheduled for release in next month is being manufactured through a parntership with Samsung.

Maytag has said that its Newton plant is its highest cost manufacturing operation. A four-year contract was reached last July following a nearly four-week strike. Even with workers agreeing to take on more of their health care costs, management officials say the plant still remains ineligible for new product platforms and none are scheduled for the plant this year.

The real issue

February 15, 2005
The real issue
 
Date February 15, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

Can we please stop bickering about budget cuts and city job losses and concentrate on the root of this city’s problem! The real issue with our city is that Maytag has laid off a lot of people over the last couple of years and more are to come. The writing is on the wall for this company to close its doors in Newton, or for it to be bought out.

I wish our elected officials would concentrate on finding ways to work with Maytag and the union workers to keep them here and attract a new major employer to town. Surrounding towns like Pella and Knoxville have multiple businesses that employ more than 200 to 300 employees. In Newton our eggs are all in one basket. How come nobody is looking at offering land to a company like Principal or Wells Fargo with tax abatements, help with construction costs, etc. We have plenty of people here in Newton who need jobs so we should be trying to use that to our advantage and attract something to come to Newton. The racetrack project seems to be dead. If we don’t do something soon Newton is going to be left with even more unemployed people, empty houses, no buyers for the houses and no tax revenue.

Eric Arnold

Newton

Maytag could be forced to remove Attrezzi brand name

February 14, 2005
Maytag could be forced to remove Attrezzi brand name
 
Date February 14, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Michael McCord

Business Editor

The Portsmouth Herald

Special to the Daily News

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Jennifer Slade, the owner of Attrezzi Fine Kitchen Accessories, described her legal battle against the Maytag Corp. as a “battle for all the little guys.”

Now Slade can call it a victory.

On Tuesday, Slade won the first –and, she hopes, only — round in her trademark infringement case against Maytag when a U.S. District Court jury in Concord sided with her.

“I’m thrilled that the justice system did the right thing,” Slade said about the dispute that began in 2003 when she discovered that Maytag had released a new line of small appliances called Attrezzi – the name that Slade had registered in New Hampshire shortly after she opened her Market Street store in June 2002.

Slade’s victory didn’t come with a big money settlement. The jury’s verdict, said Jim Goggin, Slade’s lawyer, will lead to the court issuing a permanent injunction against Maytag, which will force the company to remove the Attrezzi brand name off its line of mixers and blenders.

An injunction, Goggin said, was all Slade had asked for in the first place.

“(Maytag) will no doubt ask that the verdict be set aside, but the judge has already said he won’t do it,” Goggin explained. “They could appeal, but we don’t see any grounds to appeal.”

Maytag Corporation continues to believe that its use of the Jenn-Airª Attrezziª trademark on small electric kitchen appliances does not infringe upon the use of Attrezzi by the New Hampshire company.

“We conducted the proper legal due diligence prior to launching its line of small electric kitchen appliances under the Jenn-Air Attrezzi name,” said Maytag spokesperson Karen Lynn. “We would not have proceeded if there was any doubt that our use infringed upon someone else’s intellectual property rights.”

Maytag is now weighing its options on whether or not to appeal the ruling.

The jury found that the name Attrezzi belongs to the Portsmouth store and that Maytag‘s use of the name was likely to cause confusion as to the source of products.

The jury also found that Maytag had willfully infringed on the Attrezzi trademark because it had known that the store existed nine months before it was to release the new product line.

Goggin said that during the pretrial discovery process, he saw that Maytag had conducted an internal review and “they assumed it was a reasonable business risk” that Slade would be unwilling or could not afford to pursue litigation against a large corporate entity.

“We think they thought a little store in New Hampshire wouldn’t fight them,” said Goggin. But Attrezzi was harmed because Maytag “stole our identify and name.”

Goggin said the confusion was obvious to his client because the store started receiving e-mails from angry customers about Maytag products.

The jury awarded Slade $5,400 for expenses and fees she incurred in opposing Maytag‘s trademark application.

Goggin said Slade could have been awarded a percentage of the profits from Maytag‘s Attrezzi line, but there were none for the jury to award. Sales of the products have yet to total enough to recoup the company’s sizable marketing costs in rolling out the new line.

He estimated that Slade’s legal expenses ran into the six-figure range. Because the jury ruled that Maytag had willfully infringed on Slade’s ownership of the Attrezzi name, Goggin said he plans to petition the judge to have Maytag pay those expenses.

“It’s a huge expense,” said Slade, who filed the suit in October 2003. “I didn’t expect it would go that far. More than once I said, ‘We can’t really be going to trial over this.'”

Slade discovered that Maytag had co-opted her store’s name in May 2003 while attending a trade show in San Francisco.

“I tried to informally work out an agreement,” she said. “It became clear to me after talking to three of their representatives that I wasn’t talking to anybody with decision-making authority.”

Slade said she wasn’t comfortable at first about going to court. “It’s hard. Nobody likes to be thought of as litigious.”

But she eventually realized Maytag didn’t seem interested in settling out of court.

“I think success to them meant that the problem would go away,” she said.

Still, Slade didn’t back down, despite the cost. “Once I started, I wasn’t just fighting for me. It was a battle for all the little guys,” she said.

“I’ve learned a lot,” she added. “I hope this is it, but with the legal system, when you think it’s over, it’s generally not over.”

Daily News staff contributed to this report.

Maytag layoffs continue

February 8, 2005
Maytag layoffs continue
 
Date February 08, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
(AP) — Maytag Corp. plans to lay off more workers at its washer and dryer plant in its hometown as the company reduces production of some product lines to avoid building up inventory, the company said.

“It’s a rebalancing,” said spokeswoman Karen Lynn.

She said Monday that the Newton-based appliance manufacturer, for competitive reasons, would not disclose which product lines would be reduced or the number of workers to be laid off, effective Feb. 21.

Pat Teed, president of United Auto Workers Local 997, said the union hasn’t been told how many workers would be affected.

Since last year, Maytag has laid off about 330 production workers in Newton, cutting the hourly work force to about 1,430 people. In 2002, the work force was around 2,200.

CEO Ralph Hake has said the Newton factory, its highest-cost plant, will shrink unless costs are cut substantially.

Teed has said the union is working with the company to make the plant more cost-effective.

Newton’s future – new beginnings

February 8, 2005
Newton’s future — new beginnings
 
Date February 08, 2005
Section(s)  
Brief  
 
Maytag once employed nearly 3,000 workers in Newton; present employment is below the 1,500 level.

Newton Senior High once had close to or more than 400 students in each grade when I first came here in 1967. Present student population at the high school is now around 967 (269 freshmen; 254 sophomores; 238 juniors; 206 seniors).

The Parson’s Company and Winpower, along with the Vernon Company and Newton Manufacturing, Thombert and Maytag once provided Newton with a manufacturing mix. Today, two of those companies are gone, while the other four have reduced employment and have been outsourcing for some time.

Remember H. Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound?” In early 1990s, he spoke loudly about the job loss caused by foreign competition. Yet, on Feb. 7, 2004, Times of India reported that Perot Systems was going to double its total worldwide employment in Asia from 3,500 to 7,000. If Perot couldn’t resist the economic logic of foreign outsourcing, what American CEO wouldn’t do likewise? A folk singer in the 1960s sang about “the world – she is a changin.” We can simply add: Yes, it always has and always will.

While some of our manufacturing base has moved partially or completely or has been outsourcing to foreign countries, our information services’ industry is experiencing similar change.

SOME IN OUR COMMUNITY have said that certain projects could not be done here: TIF program, Park Centre complex, the city hall, fire and police department complex, the Center for Performance, the DMACC Poly-Tech Campus, the Jasper County Museum, the Maytag Pool renovation, the YMCA, the Agnes Patterson Park, the arboretum and botanical garden, the hike and bike trail and the enhancement of the school district’s facilities.

All became a reality, starting with a germ of an idea with an individual, or a group’s seeing a need, and then creating and selling a plan to succeed. Big projects! Big dreams! Big efforts! We are the beneficiaries. Granted, all of these projects involved sacrifice in time, talent and money, along with an element of risk. The sacrifices and risks continue for our generation and for those who follow. Doesn’t life consist largely of trying to manage risk?

Perhaps the time is ripe for Newton to be much more pro-active. Wringing our hands over revenue shortages, seeing only negatives, pointing the finger at others and pitting one group against another won’t build a better tomorrow.

Newton is in competition with other communities to provide solid job opportunities in order to stabilize the work force, reduce stress from lost jobs and add to the economic mix. If we can add new jobs, Newton will enter its own renaissance or rebirth. We have what it takes to revitalize and to re-invent ourselves!

A spark of genius anchored in common sense begins the process. Who creates the spark? The City Council? The Newton Development Corporation? JEDCO? Each of us? Make no mistake, movers and shakers are active here. Projects are in the works; however, confidentiality issues don’t allow some plans to be made public until the time is right.

Let us hope that enough citizens care enough to be involved in promoting change. We also hope that all involved have a similar vision for Newton. Do we know what makes our community unique?

We have received our “wake-up” call. How and when we respond is not only the question before us but is a challenge as well.

WHAT TO DO?

* Seek ways to involve our youth in opportunities to do community service.

* Work to make the golf course be self-sufficient, even a money maker.

* Rely on department heads for direction. Trust them, but verify and hold them accountable.

* Anticipate economic business cycles by budgeting contingency funds in good years to cover for economically deficient years.

* Be sure that all groups working to “sell Newton” are saying the same thing.

* Keep basic security a top priority. Police and fire departments are our first line of defense.

* Do what is possible to keep Newton physically attractive to perspective businesses and families looking for a new home.

* Ask civic groups to pitch in even more with volunteer labor projects.

* Stay positive while working for the common good.

* Set good examples for civility in public discussions.

* Nurture the art of compromise.

The brain power, the dedicated workers, the impetus for positive change is here. Let’s roll up the sleeves and get to work for Newton’s brighter future. We have time to do what needs to be done; however, the clock is ticking!

February 4, 2005
Last one out, please turn off the lights
 
Date February 04, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
 
Writing a budget that is balanced and reflects the priorities of Iowans is the Legislature’s most important job. This week Gov. Vilsack started the debate on state spending by releasing a budget plan for the new fiscal year which begins July 1. The details of the governor’s proposal are available on the internet at http://www.governor.state.ia.us

I tend to support many elements of the governor’s budget for it calls on Iowans to endorse economic development, increase state investment in education for all ages and increase access to health care for kids and seniors.

The first step to help Iowa schoolchildren occurred on the west steps of the Capitol on Wednesday, when surrounded by Republican and Democratic legislators alike, Gov. Vilsack signed legislation to increase basic funding for Iowa’s public schools. Both parties agreed this was just the beginning, and we will soon be doing more to improve student achievement and initiate means for serving the critical areas of early learning, teacher pay and initiatives to keep Iowa schools safe.

BRAIN DRAIN IS REAL

The loss of many of our best and brightest graduates to employers in other states in recent years was brought home in dramatic fashion. An example received this week attested to the fact that between 1989 and 2001, Iowa lost a net total of 70,000 bachelor’s degrees, being a third of those produced in the state. On the other hand, our neighbor to the north, Minnesota, gained 159,000 young folks with college degrees during the same period.

Gimmicks won’t work to reverse the flow. The balloon released last week calling on the elimination of income taxes in the 20-30 age category as a means of keeping our youth in Iowa popped shortly after release. The answer is simple and everyone knows it: Jobs! Whether its college graduates, high school graduates or GEDs, their number one reason for leaving the state is seeking employment. Good paying jobs are available in surrounding states and that tends to be the number one draw. Additional reasons include climate and recreational and leisure-time opportunities.

As I’ve stated repeatedly in past columns, government must not be in the business of job creation. Private initiative will happily step forward and risk personal assets when an opportunity for profit is apparent. Government often attempts to entice entrepreneurial effort through financial incentives. Yes, that helps. But no one should believe that other states aren’t doing the same.

Reduced impediments are a significant factor in business staying and locating in Iowa. Therefore, this coming week I shall be introducing legislation calling for a blue-ribbon panel of Iowans, a true cross-section of who and what we are, to step forward and prepare a plan which identifies those confining elements that tend to keep business from locating in Iowa, and those reasons that keep domestic business and industry from expanding.

SURE, WE CAN ALL “knee jerk” responses to such a query, but let’s have some folks from outside government do this one. After all, we must definitively identify the issues which inhibit our growth, before we can focus on a public policy strategy for a solution. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I would hope my proposed legislation would receive serious consideration. Frankly, if government leaders think they now have the answers, then why do we lose our young and bright to other states, why do so few business start-ups occur in Iowa, why do our Maytags and John Deere’s downsize and outsource, and as the result, we who remain feel the pain of higher property taxes, income taxes and user fees.

Problem solution can only occur once alternatives and options are identified. That’s all I want to do — have dialogue at your Capitol in Des Moines regarding the problem, identify possible solutions and receive recommendations on policy creation and implementation. We darn well better start doing something, or the last one out — please turn out the lights.