Development efforts to focus on keeping Maytag jobs

Development efforts to focus on keeping Maytag jobs
 
Date December 20, 2005
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Local development officials are looking into the possibility of using proceeds from a 1-cent local option sales tax to help entice Whirlpool to keep at least some Maytag operations in Newton after the merger is complete.

The prospect of using the sales tax for economic development purposes came up during a luncheon sponsored by the Newton Development Corporation at the Sodexo DMACC Conference Center on Monday.

Kim Didier, executive director of the NDC, said one of the main goals for the organization in the coming months is to identify the incentive programs available at the state and local level that will help make the case that Newton remains a profitable location for Whirlpool to grow its appliance business.

Details of the local option sales tax plan were not presented on Monday. However, the Newton City Council will hold a special work shop at 6:30 p.m. today at the Newton Arboretum to discuss the proposal.

Didier, in speaking on both the past year of economic activity and the future goals of the organization, said that efforts are also under way to develop a venture capital fund for entrepreneurial activity.

“We need to put together the infrastructure to support them,” Didier said, noting that entrepreneurialship is one of the growing aspects of economic development activity.

Didier also noted recent efforts to market the Newton area through television advertisements and the “101 Things to Love About Newton” campaign. She said additional and broader efforts in that arena will be forthcoming next year.

Didier also noted several recent development accomplishments, including the Grinnell Reinsurance expansion into Newton and Artesan Jewelers locating on the square.

She also said the group worked to relocate businesses at the Newton Mall. Hy-Vee has begun asbestos removal at the mall in preparation of making way for its new superstore.

Craig Hamilton, executive director of the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation, said the county is looking to take advantage of state programs that encourage regional development cooperation. He said the state is offering up to $175,000 in matching funds to help regional areas in the state market their economic development initiatives. He said JEDCO is working to put together a five-county regional marketing area including Jasper, Poweshiek, Marshall, Tama and Benton counties.

With potentially $350,000 to work with for marketing purposes, Hamilton said local development groups “can do a lot of talking on Jasper County’s story.”

Hamilton also noted that the capital drive for the new biodiesel plant to be located just north of Newton has been completed and construction efforts should soon begin.

Bryan Friedman, Newton’s community development director, said the city is focusing on enhancing its cultural resources, utilizing the talent and creativity of the community and capitalizing on the Iowa Speedway project.

The area surrounding the track has the potential for a great deal of new development, Friedman said, although he hopes to direct it in such a way so that it does not become a “hodge-podge of sprawl.” He said the area around the track has been dubbed the Prairie Fire Development Area.

“I see 2006 as a real pivotal year,” he said. “The two biggest economic stories in the state are going on here.”

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