Newton’s future – new beginnings

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!

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