Archive for June, 2005

Maytag Corp. says new bid causes ripples

June 30, 2005
Maytag Corp. says new bid causes ripples
 
Date June 30, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By DAVID PITT

AP Business Writer

DES MOINES — Household appliance maker Maytag Corp. said today it was notified by Triton Acquisition Holding Co. that Maytag‘s talks with rival suitors give Triton the right to terminate their merger agreement and collect a $40 million termination fee.

Triton is an entity organized by an investor group led by New York investment firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC. Maytag agreed a month ago to be acquired by Ripplewood, but on June 20 said it was considering a preliminary $1.28 billion bid from Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and China’s Haier America that values Maytag at $16 per share, $2 more per share than the offer from Ripplewood.

Maytag shares fell 5 cents to $15.81 in early trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

A Maytag statement released Thursday said Triton officials have told Maytag that continued discussions with Bain, Blackstone and Haier America are “resulting in disruption and uncertainty that is damaging to Triton and, in Triton Acquisition Holding’s view, is likely to be damaging to the company.”

Triton said since Maytag has continued to talk with the Haier America group beyond June 18, Triton has the right to end the merger agreement and receive a $40 million termination fee.

June 18 marked the end of the official solicitation period, during which Maytag could share internal information with other potential bidders.

Since the company has continued to provide information with the Haier group after that date, Triton is saying it can legitimately back out of the deal, said industry analyst Laura Champine, of Tennessee-based Morgan Keegan & Co.

Triton further advised Maytag to bring the process to a rapid conclusion, and said it will continue to monitor progress.

In a statement, Maytag said it believes the merger agreement gives the company the right to engage in talks with Bain, Blackstone and Haier America about their $1.28 billion bid, and that doing so does not give Triton Acquisition Holding a termination right.

Maytag said it will pursue its process with Bain, Blackstone and Haier America as “expeditiously as practicable.”

Maytag spokesman John Daggett declined to comment further.

“We can’t comment on anything because of the fact that we’re in this sensitive time,” he said.

Champine said the communication from Triton is likely an attempt to put Maytag on notice that they can back out of the agreement if they want and a decision needs to be made quickly.

“What’s interesting, and it may or may not mean anything, is that the first communique from Triton is not upping the bid, it’s saying ‘By the way, we can cancel this if we wish,'” Champine said.

Reports says Haier has raised bid for Maytag

June 24, 2005
Reports say Haier has raised bid for Maytag
 
Date June 24, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

News reports out of east Asia said today that Chinese appliance maker Haier has raised its bid for Maytag Corp.

According to reports by news agency AFX, Haier, which on Tuesday offered a $16 a share bid totalling $1.28 billion for the troubled U.S. appliance manufacturer, has now agreed to assume $975 million in debt held by the Newton-based company. The total acquisition bid now stands at $2.25 billion.

Haier, China’s largest appliance maker, offered a preliminary, non-binding proposal for Maytag along with U.S. equity firms Bain Capital Partners and Blackstone Capital Partners.

The Chinese bid for Maytag follows Ripplewood Holdings May offer of $14 a share, plus the assumption of the $975 million in debt. Its total bid, which was agreed to by the Maytag Board of Directors, amounts to $2.1 billion. Ripplewood was joined by equity firms GS Capital Partners and the J.Rothschild Group.

Maytag spokesman John Daggett said Haier is in the process of doing its due diligence and won’t know complete details of its offer until that effort is complete, approximately six to eight weeks from now.

On Tuesday, Maytag said it would proceed with due diligence on the Chinese offer but said there was “no assurance” a definitive agreement would be reached.

At that time, the Maytag board said it continued to support the Ripplewood offer but felt the offer from Haier should be looked at for the benefit of stockholders.

If Haier acquires Maytag, it would become one of the top four appliance manufacturers in the United States, along with Whirlpool, General Electric and Electrolux.

Haier group makes $16-a-share offer for Maytag

June 21, 2005
Haier group makes $16-a-share offer for Maytag
 
Date June 21, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Newton residents were left wondering about the future of Maytag‘s presence in town after China’s largest appliance maker, along with two U.S. equity firm giants, bumped the bid for Old Lonely.

Late Monday, Maytag released information that Haier America Trading, LLC; Bain Capital Partners LLC and Blackstone Capital Partners IV LP had sent a “preliminary, non-binding proposal” to acquire all outstanding shares for $16 cash. The new proposal also calls for debt financing provided by Merrill Lynch.

On May 19, Maytag accepted an offer from the New York City-based private equity firm Ripplewood for $1.13 billion, $14 a share, plus the assumption of $975 million in Maytag debt. Ripplewood was joined in the deal by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s GS Capital Partners and J. Rothschild Group.

In its announcement, Maytag said it plans to proceed with further due diligence on the new buyout offer but said “there can be no assurance that the preliminary non-binding proposal would result in a definitive agreement.” The process is expected to take six to eight weeks, the statement said.

“We continue to support the Ripplewood transaction; however, we also believe that it is incumbent on us to pursue this possibility of achieving a higher price for our stockholders,” said Maytag Board of Directors member Howard Clark in the statement filed with the SEC.

There was no comment from Ripplewood today.

Maytag‘s stock was up nearly 6 percent from Monday’s close, trading at $16.10 shortly before 10 a.m. today. Trading was heavy at more than 2.8 million shares.

The acquisition would allow Haier to compete with the largest appliance manufacturers. Adding Maytag, Amana, Hoover and Jenn Air brands into its product line would give the Chinese manufacturer credibility.

“Haier would get an instant credible product line,” David MacGregor, an analyst with Longbow Research told Reuters. “Longer term that could make them a competitive force to be reckoned with.”

The acquisition is part of a strategy by Chinese companies to enter the U.S. market.

“It is very difficult for Chinese appliance makers to establish a brand and sales network in the U.S.,” Sun Shengquan, a Shanghai-based analyst, told Bloomberg. “The shortcut is to buy an existing American brand. Quite a few Chinese companies may also follow this pattern.”

Haier would also be able to use the low-cost manufacturing conditions in China. According to the Asian Development Bank, Bloomberg reported, China’s unskilled labor rates are about 4 percent of the wages in the U.S.

Haier currently owns a factory in Camden, S.C., where it produced 500,000 refrigerators last year.

Maytag has faced difficult times of late. First quarter profits were down 80 percent ,which led Maytag CEO Ralph Hake to say prior to the buyout offers that “more aggressive steps” need to be taken to restructure its manufacturing operations and cut costs.

Previously, Maytag closed a refrigeration plant in Galesburg, Ill., and slashed 20 percent of its global workforce as part of its “One Company” reorganization.

Locally, Maytag has said the laundry production plant is not eligible for new product platforms and production may migrate from the plant to other locations unless costs can be reduced.

In addition to the Newton laundry facility, Maytag has targeted the Hoover production plant in North Canton, Ohio, for possible closure.

Haier still undecided about its Maytag bid

June 17, 2005
Haier still undecided about its Maytag bid
 
Date June 17, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Daily News Staff

Chinese appliance maker Haier Group was still undecided about a possible bid for Maytag this morning.

Haier Group has been reportedly considering making a bid to purchase the local appliance maker.

Last month, Maytag agreed to be taken over by Ripplewood Holdings of New York with a $2.1 billion purchase offer that included buying outstanding stock for $14 and assuming $975 million of debt.

As part of that deal, Maytag was allowed to actively solicit other bids for a 30-day period. The deadline for that window is Saturday. After that, Maytag can still entertain offers from other interested parties.

Another bidder for Maytag could drive up the purchase price for the company. Maytag‘s deal with Ripplewood includes a $40 million breakup fee.

Asian news service Interfax quoted analysts Thursday as saying Haier would be unlikely to pass up a chance to purchase Maytag.

“Haier has a presence in the U.S. and Europe but has been hampered by the company’s branding problem,” Interfax quotes analyst Wang Tao as saying. “The long term goal of an acquisition of Maytag would be to improve the brand recognition of Haier worldwide.”

Furthermore, Wang says that Haier’s short-term goal for acquiring Maytag could be to get some of its assets listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Haier has in the past wanted to (be) publically listed in the U.S. An acquisition of Maytag would be a perfect opportunity for accomplishing just that,” Wang said.

Ripplewood’s purchase plan involved making Maytag private and removing it from the NYSE as a publicly traded company.

Other bidders, including Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts reportedly have been mulling bids, too.

Maytag stock was trading around $15.11 this morning.

Haier may bid for Maytag; Hake urges patience

June 14, 2005
Haier may bid for Maytag; Hake urges patience
 
Date June 14, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Maytag‘s stock price continued to rise today on word that competing bids for the company may be forthcoming while CEO Ralph Hake urged patience to employees.

Chinese appliance maker Haier Group was reported today to be considering a bid for the U.S. appliance maker, according to the Financial Times. On Monday, Reuters reported that the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, was also considering a bid. Other private equity groups considering bids include Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, news reports indicated.

Maytag‘s stock closed up 75 cents at $15.24 on Monday on news of the Blackstone potential offer. The stock continued its upswing this morning, rising as high as $15.66 before edging downward.

Last month, Maytag agreed to be taken over by Ripplewood Holdings of New York in a $2.1 billion deal that included the purchase of outstanding stock at $14 a share plus the assumption of $975 million debt.

The merger deal included a clause that allows Maytag to solicit other bids for a 30-day period. That window expires on Friday.

The report in the Financial Times, citing a confidential source close to the situation, said that there was no certainty rival bids would be forthcoming from either Haier or the private equity firms.

Maytag spokesperson John Daggett declined comment.

An acquisition of Maytag by Haier would make it one of the top four appliance manufacturers in the U.S., alongside General Electric, Whirlpool and Electrolux. It opened its first U.S. manufacturing plant in South Carolina in 1999.

Maytag CEO Hake tried to calm employees today, saying the focus should remain on the day-to-day operations of the corporation.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hake gave employees an update on the potential sale of Maytag to Ripplewood.

“Many employees have expressed their concerns and interest in the status of the overall acquisition,” Hake said in the filing. “I know that you have many questions regarding the future state of the organization and your future employment. I can tell you that you will see no change in the aggregate value of your benefits through the remainder of 2005; except those involving Maytag stock, which will be delisted when the transaction closes. Beyond that, however, we simply do not have enough information at this time to have answers to your most basic questions.”

Hake also outlined the process through which the proposed sale will be determined over the next several weeks. He said a preliminary proxy statement will be filed with the SEC followed by a final proxy statement, which will be mailed to all Maytag shareholders. After that, a shareholder meeting will be held in Newton to vote on the proposed sale. If approved, and regulatory approval is granted, the closing of the transaction will take place soon after.

“I know that it is difficult to work in this uncertain environment; however, in this period it is important that we focus our energies on the things that we are responsible for,” the filing states. “Regardless of the result of the Ripplewood merger down the road, today we have a business to manage. We have entered the final month of our second quarter and we must continue to concentrate on delivering our sales and earnings results. After all, we are still a public company and we must not only continue to fulfill our commitments to our shareholders, but also those to our important customer partners.”

New contract at Herrin; it will be main plant for vertical-axis

June 13, 2005
New contract at Herrin; it will be main plant for vertical-axis
 
Date June 13, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By DAVID PITT

Associated Press Writer

Workers at a Maytag Corp. washer and dryer manufacturing plant in southern Illinois ratified a new four-year contract on Saturday which will enable the plant to become the main facility for vertical-axis washer production.

The new contract included four annual pay increases and improvements in the company-offered pension plan, said Steve Jones, an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers business representative.

Medical cost increases for workers in the new contract will be offset by the pay increases, he said.

“We’re ready to go back to work and do the jobs we need to do,” said Jones, who represents workers at Machinists’ Local 554 in Herrin, Ill.

The current contract was scheduled to expire at midnight Sunday.

The workers make washers and dryers at the Herrin, Ill., plant, which currently employs around 1,000 workers, Jones said. About 100 workers have been laid off in the past few years, he said.

Maytag officials praised the union for their willingness to work with the company on a new agreement.

“The cooperative attitude displayed at Herrin should allow Maytag to remain competitive in our challenging global marketplace and enable Herrin to become the main facility for our vertical-axis, top-load washer production,” said Mark Krivoruchka, Maytag‘s senior vice president of human resources, in a statement. “We want to thank I.A.M. Local 554 leadership and the Herrin union employees for their willingness to work together to reach this new labor agreement.”

Maytag has struggled to compete in recent years against low-cost imports. Herrin is a town of some 11,300 people, about 10 miles northeast of Carbondale, Ill.

Workers at other Maytag plants have made contract concessions in recent years.

The 1,340 workers at the company’s flagship factory in Newton, which makes vertical-axis Atlantis and Dependable Care washers and dryers, along with horizontal-axis Neptune washers, agreed to a new four-year contract last July after a strike of nearly three weeks.

Still, Maytag CEO Ralph Hake said the Newton plant could be phased out if significant cost savings aren’t found.

A Hoover vacuum cleaner plant in North Canton, Ohio, could also close if improvements in efficiency and cost are not made, Hake has said.

In an April conference call with analysts, Hake suggested that plants in Herrin and Searcy, Ark., were eligible to manufacture newly designed laundry equipment, while production at the higher cost plants likely would be phased out without additional cost savings.

Company officials indicated to the union that they would make the Herrin plant Maytag‘s primary manufacturer of top-load washing machines, Jones said.

“We think this helps leverage our position at Herrin,” he said.

Maytag‘s board of directors announced last month that it had agreed to sell Maytag to New York-based Ripplewood Holdings LLC and three other investment companies for $1.13 billion and assumption of $975 million in debt.

The deal is pending regulatory and shareholder approval.

Jones said he believes the new contract puts the plant in a good position regardless of who owns the company.

Newton moving into new era

June 13, 2005
Newton moving into new era
 
Date June 13, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
Editor’s Note: The following letter to the editor was sent to the Wall Street Journal by Newton Mayor Chaz Allen following a story printed by the paper concerning the sale of the Maytag Corp., to a private investment firm. An edited version of the letter ran in the Journal on Friday.

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter in regard to the Friday, May 27, article “Town Fears Being Hung Out to Dry by Maytag Sale.” Although the future of Maytag is unknown, there are many knowns within Newton that show promise and opportunity for a future as successful as Newton’s past.

One of the misconceptions about Newton involves the housing market. The unknowns surrounding Maytag have created a myth that houses are selling for less and the town will become a “ghost town.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Last year Newton’s real estate market had its best year ever. Yes, more houses entered the market for sale but more houses were sold than in any previous year since records have been kept. I don’t have to remind readers that buyers determine a market, not sellers. Our real estate is selling. Price is another indicator of a market. Our prices are appreciating at a modest rate.

Another indicator of Newton’s future is private investment into our community. Over the past three years, Newton has received more than $100 million invested into our community. This is a staggering number for a community our size that shows confidence in the future of our community. Fourteen million dollars have been spent on urban renewal projects, $20 million on new commercial projects from grocery stores to auto dealerships, millions on business expansion and finally our $70 million motorsports complex.

Newton is on the cusp of a paradigm change like no other the State of Iowa has seen. In the coming months, construction will begin on the motorsports complex that will create a bustling retail and tourism destination adjoining our recently renovated and expanded airport next to Interstate 80. This is not only a destination for Iowa but for the entire Midwest. Even the Iowa Legislature has shown strong support for this motorsports complex passing by an overwhelming margin a sales tax rebate bill that will benefit this project. The fruits of our labor will become apparent in the fall of 2006. This project will only add to our successful base of manufacturing, promotional product distribution, telecommunications and transportation.

In closing, my purpose is to focus not only the people of Newton but also those hearing about Newton for the first time on our future, not our past. As Newton moves forward into a new era, check back with us — we saved a place for you.

Charles Allen

Newton Mayor

Maytag reaches tentative pact on new contract at Herrin

June 10, 2005
Maytag reaches tentative pact on new contract at Herrin
 
Date June 10, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Maytag Corp. said today that it reached a tentative agreement on a four-year labor deal with the union representing workers at its Herrin, Ill., laundry plant.

The new contract is pending approval by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 554, which has scheduled a vote for Saturday. The existing contract is set to expire on Sunday.

The company recently agreed to be purchased by an investor group led by private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC. Under the deal, which yet needs approval by shareholders, Ripplewood will acquire all outstanding shares of Maytag at $14 a share, or approximately $1.2 billion. In addition, the investor group, which also includes RHJ International, GS Capital Partners and the J. Rothchild Group, will assume approximately $975 million of Maytag debt making the deal worth approximately $2.1 billion.

The contract with the I.A.M., if ratified by the membership, could ensure Herrin’s future as the company’s dedicated facility for all vertical-axis washing machine production.

These latest contract talks come at a time when Maytag is struggling to improve its cost position. In April, the appliance maker reported plunging first-quarter profit and slashed its full-year forecast in half. The company said then that it will take “more aggressive steps” to restructure its manufacturing operations and cut costs, including potentially closing its Newton Maytag laundry plant and its North Canton, Ohio Hoover vacuum production facility.

Maytag shares, which have steadily declined from a 52-week high of $25.30 last year, were trading down 3 cents today at $14.56.

What will become of U.S. manufacturing?

June 10, 2005
Keeping in Touch: What will become of U.S. manufacturing?
 
Date June 10, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
Brief  
 
By Dennis Black

Iowa Legislator

Readers should be very concerned about the problem our community, state and nation are facing. Within a month’s period of time we’ve learned of potential manufacturing transitions with ramifications that could affect generations.

We continually hear about “global economy.” I can relate to that, for in my numerous trips to Taiwan, mainland China and Korea, I’ve observed first-hand the areas where America competes very well with Pacific Rim economies. Yet in others, they can’t begin to compete with us and likewise, we can’t with them.

Southeast Asia has an insatiable appetite for Iowa’s agricultural products, i.e. corn, soybeans, pork and beef. Japan loves Iowa beef; Taiwan continues to purchase huge amounts of Iowa pork and soybeans; and, mainland China is just starting to consume Iowa’s bounty. We have the land, the technology and the work ethic of Iowa’s farmers to really be an integral part of feeding the world. Essentially, we’re doing that right now.

However, Iowa and America must be far more than agriculture. Not everyone can make their living on the farm. Besides, the profit-margin in food production is very slim, the result of a national cheap food-policy that is perpetuated by Congress’ action and inaction. A viable economy is a varied economy and both soft- and hard-good manufacturing are essential in the big picture.

We’ve been advised that “outsourcing” is necessary to compete in the global market. Sounds reasonable, until you realize there is no way America can, or America should, or America will compete in a global market where, in some “economies,” wages are our equivalent of 38 cents an hour and job security and health-care are non-existent.

This week’s news has the General Motors CEO announcing the company is in trouble, downsizing is imminent and 25,000 GM employees will be phased-out by the year 2008. That’s a 20 percent drop in the workforce for the nation’s largest automaker. Additional products utilized in automobiles will be manufactured abroad, and plants within the U. S. will compete for assembly. Sound familiar?

The reported big issue with GM is labor and health-care costs, with the price of each auto sold including $1,500 directly related to health care plans of current and retired employees. At least that assessment stays in America, funneled through our health care providers and insurance companies and back into the economy. Those companies and providers employ people and those people drive autos, many of which are GM products.

American manufacturers truly believe that the solution to rising costs is outsourcing to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Mexico or South America. Outsourcing components and the outright manufacture of whole goods overseas is only a very short-term solution for the stockholders who control the corporations. As the quality of a product declines, then consumer demand for the product evaporates. Diminished demand is reflected in stock value, and everyone suffers in the long run.

With last week’s report of Kellogg’s Midwest Manufacturing facing trying times, I frankly wondered how that could be with the employees of that gear manufacturing business having had to work massive amounts of overtime to keep up with automakers demand. In fact, the orders to the Kellogg plant today far exceed the production. Wouldn’t that lead one to think that expansion would more readily meet the demand, versus reducing workforce?

Frankly, we know you get what you pay for, and that fly-wheel manufactured in China by Amtech India becomes one of the most integral components of your American assembled vehicle. A flywheel relates directly to the mechanical integrity of the vehicle, and the safety and welfare of your family! I’d prefer the peace-of-mind with the Midwest flywheel, for I know the integrity, commitment and work ethic of those employees and the quality product the men and women of that plant produce. I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from China.

As for Maytag, it’s been the “engine” that has driven Newton for a century. That’s a fact, but at the same time, there were and are many other parts of the “whole.” We must always be thankful for the many fine businesses and industry in our community. Too often they are overlooked when assessing the viability of the local economy. Ironically, they may become our means of survival.

A symbiotic relationship must exist between management, stockholders, labor and a satisfied and loyal consumer/customer. These four cornerstones were the basis for Fred Maytag‘s success. He considered Maytag as “family” and thus his legacy shall always be reflected in that conviction. I’m not so na & iuml;ve as to think those days will return. But I do recall not all that many years ago when Newton’s factories produced only washers and driers, employed nearly 3,000, were profitable, had no debt and reportedly had big-time bucks in the bank. Labor can’t be blamed for that transition!

I’m confident things will never be like they were for the multinational corporations have no community or regional affinity or identity. To a fairly great extent they look only at the “bottom line.”

Well, I guarantee you that if this nation fails to rise up and demand from Congress action in preserving the very heart and soul of domestic manufacturing, the disparity between this nation’s “have” and “have-nots” will only widen. And yes, readers, I do know that Bill Clinton was the big proponent of NAFTA. And likewise, I’ll never understand why!

Questions or comments? Senator Dennis Black. Box 1271. Newton, 50208.

June 2, 2005
Together we can make a difference
 
Date June 02, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Brian Sims  
 
Many of you that know me know that I came from a small town in Arkansas and the Air Force brought me to Iowa some 15 years ago. What most of you don’t know are the circumstances that brought me to this great city I now call home.

My boyhood town of Trumann, Ark., was a town similar to Newton. Trumann was a small rural manufacturing town of approximately 6,000 people. In 1900, the Singer Sewing Machine Company bought timber land and railroad property in the area that soon became known as Trumann. The industry brought jobs and an economic boon. In 1911, the Singer plant employed 600 people. By the mid 70s, the Singer plant employed 2,000 people in a town of 5,600. There were two other small manufacturers in town, but nothing rivaled the wages Singer paid.

MANY TIMES other manufacturers tried to come into town, but the Singer Corporation controlled the city council, and each time a move into Trumann by another competitor was blocked. Then in 1981, without notice, the Singer Corporation shut down and moved out of town. With most of the jobs in “one basket,” the town was economically devastated. There was an increase in illegal drugs, crime and domestic violence. By 1983, Trumann’s economy accounted for only 600 jobs. My grandfather, who was a local small business man, also suffered the effects. The profits he once realized shrunk to almost nothing. People began to move out of the area. I was one of those that had to leave to find economic prosperity and thus began a 20-year Air Force career.

CONSIDER MCDOWELL County, W. Va. For decades McDowell County prospered by supplying the coal that fired the nation’s steel mills. Mining jobs were abundant, accounting for half of all jobs in the county. Mining wages were attractive, paying an average of $80,000 in today’s dollars. Most young people, rather than finishing high school, became miners (more than half of those over age 25 in 1980 were high school dropouts). Mining companies dominated the county, owning most of the property.

Two developments in the early 1980s hurt West Virginia’s coal industry. First, the value of the dollar rose relative to foreign currencies, so American steel became more expensive overseas and foreign steel became cheaper here. Consequently, steel imports rose substantially, reducing the demand for U.S. steel and the coal used to make it. Second, more stringent pollution controls reduced the demand for the kind of coal mined in McDowell County. As a result, many coal mines shut down, putting more miners out of work. By 1983, the county’s unemployment rate topped 40 percent.

THE COUNTY tried to attract new industry — even a nuclear waste dump — but met with little success. The poor roads and bridges and a labor force trained only for mining scared off potential employers. Between 1980 and 2000, mining jobs in the county fell from 7,200 to only 700, while all private-sector jobs dropped by more than half. As jobs disappeared, people left. County population dropped from about 50,000 in 1980 to 29,000 in 2000. The unemployment rate in 2001 was still nearly triple the national average and double the state average. In short, the county had all its eggs in one basket — mining — but that basket fell, and the county has not recovered (source: McEachern, William A., 2003. Macroeconomics — A Contemporary Introduction. South-Western, Mason, Ohio).

ALL IS NOT lost! After I moved from Trumann, in 1983 some local businessmen took a proposal to the Trumann City Council. The council was asked to buy the entire Singer facility (82 acres of land and 26 acres of buildings) for the purpose of establishing an industrial park. The city decided it would purchase undeveloped land and establish their own industrial park. In the meantime, several business leaders in the community made an offer to the Singer Corporation to buy the old Singer facility. Singer accepted. With that purchase the owners soon lured different industry into the facilities. One was Arbor products, which employed 200 employees. Other manufacturers employed 30 to 50 people. The City of Trumann also followed through with their purchase of land for an industrial park. The city was effective in luring more manufacturers into Trumann. Most of these manufacturers employed 50 to 100 people.

Today, there are approximately 11 manufacturers in this small town of 7,000 people for approximately 1,500 manufacturing jobs. The City of Trumann has rebounded from the shock of 25 years ago, but it took the inspiration of local talented leaders (Source: Trumann that was and Trumann that is. By local historian Georgia Moore).

NEWTON IS at a crossroad! Does Newton stand by and have a wait-and-see attitude concerning Maytag? Do we silently hope the proposed racetrack brings us economic relief? I don’t believe this is wise. Now is the time for our civic, business and union leaders to step up to the plate, come together, form partnerships and alliances for the good of Newton. We have some of the brightest people that Iowa has to offer, and they should be encouraged to take a leadership role within our community. No one person has all the answers, and I am only one person. But, I do believe, now more than ever, we need bright, energetic people with strong leadership abilities to facilitate, inspire and keep us focused toward a common goal.

ECONOMIC development does not happen overnight, as with Trumann, it can take years. Will Newton become another Trumann, Ark., or a McDowell County, W. Va.? I hope not. But I, for one, do not want to witness another economic and social collapse of a city. Encourage your friends and neighbors to get involved and become part of the solution. Together we can make a difference.

Brian Sims is director of Jasper County Human Resources