Government officials discuss newton plant future with Maytag executives

Government officials discuss Newton plant future with Maytag executives
Date May 09, 2005
Section(s) Local News

Associated Press Writer

Newton Daily News Staff

Government officials emerged from a meeting with Maytag Corp. officials on Friday saying they planned to continue to discuss the future of central Iowa manufacturing jobs with the appliance company.

“By sitting around the table, federal state and local governments, management and labor, all in the same room you can create the opportunity to begin to find ways to mutually help each other and today was the start of it,” said Mike Blouin, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

The meeting was called by Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, who said there was an open discussion with company and union officials.

Boswell said Maytag CEO Ralph Hake was among those present.

Hake told analysts last month that the company was studying the future of manufacturing in Newton, which he has said is the company’s most expensive plant to operate. He suggested work could be transferred to lower cost plants in the United States. The company also has manufacturing operations in Mexico.

Maytag has about 1,300 workers making washers and dryers in Newton, where the company also has its corporate headquarters.

Boswell said he’s concerned about losing the Iowa jobs.

“We’re always concerned about jobs, that’s natural,” he said. “We want this company to continue to be here, be solid and not be solid only in Newton, but in our state and our country. They have been very viable and it’s my opinion that they still are.”

Blouin and Boswell were not specific about how the state or federal government could help keep the jobs in Newton.

“Today was a step to have good communication. We had a good meeting.” Boswell said, “We’re going to go off and digest it and probably talk some more.”

Blouin said Maytag could be eligible for state funding from economic development programs if it were to add new products to its manufacturing plants here.

“Everybody’s going to think about what we can do collectively,” he said. “I think everybody in that room wants to keep jobs in Iowa — keep Newton strong.”

Maytag spokesman John Daggett said after the meeting the company shared its challenges “in the very competitive global appliance marketplace and the particular business challenges we face at the Newton laundry plant.”

He said the company will hold discussions with the UAW and finalize plans over the next several months.

“We will then discuss those plans with the government officials before final decisions are made and announced later this year,” Daggett said.

Newton City Council member Mike Hansen found the meeting informative.

“I got a great education on what it means to operate a global corporation,” he said, adding that Maytag officials recognized the Newton plant as the “mother factory” and “they want it to be here for years and years to come.”

Maytag will hold its annual shareholder’s meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at the DMACC auditorium.

Newton Daily News staff members Andy Karr and Peter Hussmann contributed to this story.


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