Local groups discuss possible loss of Maytag

Local groups discuss possible loss of Maytag
 
Date October 20, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Strategies to spur business growth and job opportunities in the face of the possible loss of Maytag were discussed by about 100 community leaders gathered at a day-long forum sponsored by the Daily News.

Business, industry, labor, education, social service and local government officials from throughout Jasper County gathered at the DMACC campus Wednesday to take stock of the community’s current situation — the risks it faces, the assets it possesses and promising opportunities for successful outcomes.

The event, “Forging Ahead: A Community Dialogue” was put together by the Daily News as part of its on-going effort to focus community attention on the broad-range impacts of Maytag‘s potential closure. The event was facilitated by Steve Gray, a former editor and publisher of a family-owned newspaper in Monroe, Mich., and past publisher of the Christian Science Monitor.

In his opening remarks to the broad-base of guests, Gray likened Newton’s situation to a group of people in a raft heading toward Niagra Falls.

“We all share the same risk or jeopardy,” he said. “We have to think how we can all avoid the dramatic danger.”

After spending the morning identifying specific risks to the community should Maytag leave and the assets the community has to offer, attendees focused attention on what strategies might be best for the community to follow and what specific opportunities exist for growth outcomes.

A wide-range of possibilities surfaced. Attendees felt some effort should be made to contact Whirlpool officials about the benefits it could see by keeping local Maytag operations, although an “all our eggs in one basket” approach to new job creation opportunities should be avoided.

Other tactics identified for their potential benefits included the development of an “away team” that would be prepared to travel and tell Newton’s location benefits to business and industry, a comprehensive Internet site for use by business locators, fostering better relationships between city and county governmental agencies, creation of a grant writing position for job growth benefits, efforts to expand the local job base beyond its industrial emphasis toward technological, health care and service industries and national, regional and local advertising efforts to tell Newton’s story.

The group also discussed the potential for helping to foster new business ventures by displaced Maytag workers. An entrepreneurship incubator program could be developed that could take advantage of the varied skill sets held by current Maytag employees. The use of angel funds and philanthropic donations to help set up these programs was also suggested as a method for financing such efforts.

The possibility of an employee-owned Maytag operation was also discussed should the plant close sometime in the future. Expanded use of the community’s intermodal railroad loading facility was also targeted as an opportunity, especially with the vacant warehousing space that exists near Maytag.

The brainstorming ideas generated at Wednesday’s meeting will be tabulated over the next several days and posted on the Daily News’ Web site, http://www.newtondailynews.com.

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