Brainstorming Newton’s future

Brainstorming Newton’s future
Date September 30, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
Location, location, location! I heard that again this week while speaking to a business forum in Altoona, where an Altoona businessman commented about the prime location of Newton in regard to population and business expansion. Along with Jasper, my Senate District covers eastern Polk County, so I spend considerable time in Altoona, Mitchellville, Bondurant and Runnels. Traveling east from there, I see the expansion of housing into western Jasper County. Frankly, most of this was anticipated, as the expansion westward into Dallas County from Des Moines has become crowded with miles and miles of “cookie-cutter” homes. Builders seeking more open spaces are moving into Jasper, and commuting to their jobs in Des Moines.

I lament the fact that state government has invested big bucks – literally untold millions, in projects and programs for economic development that just plain didn’t work. I voted for some; voted against others. Yet, many did succeed, and what is interesting is the fact that some of the greatest success stories come from the state participating in projects related to leisure-time pursuits and tourism. A great example would be that of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. Newton’s own Mark Wagner is the Museum Director at the facility and it brings thousands and thousands of tourists into the city.

During the past decade state government financial involvement has failed in several projects that sponsors virtually guaranteed would succeed. I quickly learned that government should not get involved in doing those things that private enterprise can do better. Untold millions of state dollars have gone to projects that just didn’t succeed, such as a Laser Building at the University of Iowa and nearly a half-billion dollars to a statewide fiber-optic system that is on the verge of antiquity. I supported the U. of I. Laser Building., but adamantly opposed the state ownership of the statewide fiber-optic network, calling it “a big black hole, that will consume a half-billion dollars from other critical needs during the decade to come.” I was correct.

The process for eventually achieving economic growth in a community commences when someone brings forth an idea on products, services or opportunities. Once the idea reaches critical mass — where a person or group of people believe it will work, then the process moves on to evaluating market demand, securing a funding stream, detailed planning, and finally, implementation. That’s the American way — believing in some endeavor so strongly, that you are willing to take the personal risk to make it happen. That’s how we ended up with Maytag in Newton, along with the Vernon Company, Thombert, Keystone Laboratories, Meisner Electric and other local ingenuity in small business and industry creation that provide the jobs that make us what we are. A great example of a new small business is that of Multi-Packaging, located in the Meisner Center. Franchette Braaksma and her husband are endeavoring to fill a regional void in assembly-line packaging. The couple is committed to the success of the business, and is innovative in their choice and use of equipment in an expanding market of on-site packaging of hard goods and food products.

A thriving community is one that works together; one justifiably inter-dependent, where the needs of the private sector are met with a talented and productive workforce, and the laboring men and women rewarded with livable wages, benefits and job satisfaction. Fairness in tax policy is essential for long-term commitment of any business, and government cannot be overly restrictive with regulations and expect business to succeed.

Not every business endeavor works. Fred Maytag was undoubtedly discouraged when some of his ideas didn’t jell. Several items, including automobiles and farm implements, just didn’t seem to catch-on. However, his washing machine did, and surely he would be honored to know his humble beginnings having become one of the top 500 industries in America.

The Newton Daily News, by way of Pete Hussmann’s research, is doing a remarkable job of not only keeping the community informed about potential transitions in our major industry, but also provides some insight into the positive assets of the county and region. Attitude is everything, and thus the critical aspect of all working together for the good of the whole is essential. Brain-storming is occurring and all citizens should feel compelled to step forward with their ideas of making the area progress and prosper.

I have yet to hear back from Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig, to whom I made the case that Iowa has much to offer, and the bottom-line of that corporation would well enhanced by the preservation of “Washer City.” I urged him to “come check us out.”

Questions or comments? Write Box 1271, Newton, 50208; or e-mail


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