Doing what they do best — build appliances

Doing what they do best – building appliances
 
Date September 16, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
 
Iowans are being forced to re-invent their economy. Strong, innovative leadership is rising to the top to “think-tank” responses to the dilemma being faced by communities across central Iowa. Nothing is off-limits, and any constructive idea should be presented to the decision makers to ponder.

An example: A credible, successful Newton businessman has tossed out the idea that should the Whirlpool purchase of Maytag be approved, why not challenge the parent corporation to consider Newton as the logical location for more than just a skeleton crew of their manufacturing agenda. After all, does Benton Harbor really have anything over on Newton? This acquisition will result in a company that borderlines the statutory limit of market ownership, although approval is expected from federal antitrust regulators. All those eggs derived from their expansion need not be placed in the Benton Harbor basket. Thus, Newton’s offerings could be the meat-and-potatoes of what it takes for success, since the infrastructure is already here and in great shape. Add to that the fact that the workers are here; great schools and worker training facilities are here; I-80 and a jet-friendly airport are here; an active railroad and intermodal are here; corporate-level housing and unlimited recreational and cultural attractions are either here or within an hour’s drive. What more could one ask?

GOV. VILSACK has spoken to Whirpool CEO Jeff Fettig, one of our nation’s most respected corporate managers. The governor’s approach was typically direct, being the reality that the Newton factory’s blue and white-collar workforce would be an integral component in ensuring Whirlpool’s future and continued success in competing in a new, world economy. Mayor Allen, Rep. Bell and I have also extended an invitation to Mr. Fettig to come and visit our state, tour the community and research the positive aspects and assets offered in Newton, Jasper County and the I-80 corridor of central Iowa. After all, we’ve been “making it happen” with Maytag for a century, and Whirlpool couldn’t go wrong by using these workers and their talents to do what they do best – build appliances!

We must stop lamenting that which has occurred and move toward a positive focus on our community’s future. We don’t have to take a back-seat to anyone and that’s not just happy-talk. Iowans love to build things, it’s a traditional and innate talent, and the risk-takers would do well by simply believing in our work ethic as much as we do. So … YOU give it some thought, for everyone’s ideas are solicited to encourage the community’s leaders to focus on a plan for future growth and prosperity. Write your idea down on a piece of paper, and pass it on to Dave Aldridge at NDC, or Jim Nelson at the Newton Daily News or Mayor Allen. E-mail me (address below), and I’ll see it gets to the right people.

A Taiwan business delegation will visit Iowa on a trade mission this coming week. Their mission is to purchase feed grains and soybeans, and mine is to impress on them that Central Iowa is a great place to make their investments and purchases. The Republic of China on Taiwan is the sixth-largest market in the world for U.S. agricultural goods and Iowa’s second greatest trading partner. Their feed grain purchases will be used for both livestock and human consumption. Taiwan prefers non-GMO (genetically modified), and although that does limit the sources, many central Iowa farmers are comfortable producing in this niche market.

Rep. Bell and I will meet the seven-member mission at the Des Moines airport Sunday evening, and I will spend the following two days traveling with them to locations along the I-80 corridor from just west of Des Moines, through Altoona and on to Newton. The group is very concerned about their country’s dependence on oil from mainland China, and they wish to become more self-sufficient through renewable fuels. Their current vision is buying our corn, and shipping it via the Mississippi River to the Gulf, and then on through the Panama Canal to Taichung, south of Taipei. My approach is to seek their investment in ethanol and biodiesel production facilities here in central Iowa, and ship the finished fuel products to their island of twenty-three million population. The residual mash would be used as animal feed for the thousands upon thousands of metric tons of Iowa pork Taiwan purchases from Iowa each year. The Iowa Dept. of Economic Development is arranging for our tour of a central Iowa ethanol plant.

AS WE SEEK investment and attracting and maintaining jobs in Iowa, we must consider the types of jobs that will allow us to compete in the international market. We must go after quality jobs that will reduce our unemployment and keep younger Iowans in our state. We need companies that will take care of their workers and value their services.

As the Legislature develops and supports business incentives in an effort to draw more jobs to Iowa, I know that it is only high-quality jobs that will retain our best workers and our new graduates, attract new people and increase the number of small businesses in our cities and towns. A high-quality job that can support a family and provide benefits is a key to ensure that Iowa continues to be the best place to live, work and raise a family.

Things are changing fast in this “new economy,” and we have no choice but tailor our educational system to ensure our children are not left behind by our failure to modernize. I have absolute confidence in our schools to provide the quality and quantity of educational opportunities necessary to attain high-skill, high-wage jobs in this new economy. Business leaders and educators are insisting that before students leave school, they have the skills necessary to be successful in today’s knowledge-based market.

My colleagues and I are starting to put together a list of priorities for the next legislative session, which starts in January. I solicit your input, and welcome your suggestions and ideas.

Questions or comments? Write me at Box 1271, Newton 50208, or e-mail dblack@black4senate.com.

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