Archive for April, 2006

Whirlpool, government discuss jobs

April 28, 2006
Whirlpool, government discuss jobs
 
Date April 28, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By ANDY KARR

NDN Staff Writer

DES MOINES — Whirlpool, government and union officials met at the Iowa Department of Economic Development on Thursday to discuss the company’s future in Iowa. Newton officials who attended the closed meeting said no specific incentives were discussed, and the meeting simply allowed communities and the state to showcase what they have to offer Whirlpool.

“This was just about the fabric of your community, what is the fabric of your community. It really wasn’t about incentives,” Mayor Chaz Allen said, adding that he came away from the meeting feeling “hopeful” about the retention of Whirlpool jobs in Newton.

Whirlpool completed a $2.6 billion purchase of Maytag on March 31, assuming control of the Newton-based company and about 4,000 Maytag jobs throughout Iowa. Former Maytag employees and all of Newton have been waiting since then to learn the fate of jobs in the community.

During a visit to Newton on April 4, Dave Swift, Whirlpool’s president of North American operations, said his company was crunching numbers and would have a decision by the end of May on how to integrate the two companies. He reiterated that timeline on Thursday when he and Gov. Tom Vilsack addressed the media.

Asked what it would take to keep some or all of Whirlpool’s 4,000 Iowa jobs in the state Swift responded, “There’s not one single point — it’s trying to understand a total solution and that involves all aspects. It has to relate to the logistics, the infrastructure that exists, as well as the things that the state and the communities can do, and that’s just part of the formula we have to look at.”

Vilsack noted the challenge now facing state and local officials.

“I don’t want to underestimate the difficulty of the challenge that is faced because there are significant differences in terms of cost of doing business in other locations. We’re going to do our level best over the course of the next couple meetings as well as the next couple of weeks to put our best foot forward,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack said Whirlpool officials may not have had much confidence in the State of Iowa but that in recent discussions he believes they at least had “given them pause.”

“It’s a very competitive circumstance and I don’t want to mislead anybody. It’s a very, very competitive circumstance, and it may be in the capacity of any government to make up that competitive difference,” he said. “I think that’s what we have to learn from each other.”

DURING THE MEETING, Newton Development Corporation Executive Director Kim Didier spoke on Newton’s behalf, highlighting some of the positive traits the community has to offer.

“Basically our message was that we’re forging ahead and that there have been very positive developments in our community, which reinforces the fact that we have a competitive business environment,” Didier said.

She highlighted the Iowa Speedway, biodiesel plant, the new nursing program at DMACC and proposed developments like the Love’s travel center and the hotel/waterpark.

State Sen. Dennis Black said the mention of the Newton Promise proposal in particular caught the attention of Whirlpool executives.

“The Whirlpool executives were very attentive, and I noticed they were actively engaging in the visual aids and writing notes after being presented the issues and assets of the community after Ms. Didier took the podium.”

Didier said the meeting was “from our perspective, very positive. They were well receiving of the message.”

UAW President Ted Johnson, who also attended the meeting, told the Associated Press there’s a chance Iowa could keep laundry production jobs in Newton.

“We’ve got the workforce, we’ve got the commitment, we’ve got the education and we’ve certainly got the know-how to build products,” Johnson said. “All we need now is the product to build.”

About 13 years ago, state and local governments and utilities offered about $9 million in incentives for Maytag to produce the Neptune washer and dryer locally. Employment at the factory was as high as 2,500 just a few years ago, but has fallen to around 1,000 workers at the factory recently. It’s unclear at this point if such another incentive program could be used to keep production jobs in Newton.

“There’s no doubt about it, my membership needs to see some positives, and I believe that they would respond remarkably well if they’d see some,” Johnson said.

More layoffs hit Newton’s plant

April 28, 2006
More layoffs hit Newton’s plant
 
Date April 28, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Sixty-five production workers at Whirlpool’s Maytag plant in Newton will be laid off today in an adjustment of production levels due to market demand, Whirlpool officials said.

Jody Lau, manager of global communications at Whirlpool, said the layoff is in response to changing market demand for the Maytag products manufactured in Newton.

Lau would not give the total employment level at the plant after today’s layoff or the years of service of those impacted by the move. Production levels have dropped significantly since nearly 2,600 people were employed at the Newton plant just a few years ago. Local estimates put the number employed now below 1,000.

Lau also said Whirlpool is beginning to make adjustments to Maytag‘s salaried workforce in Newton as part of its integration process. She said Whirlpool is “beginning discussions” with Maytag employees on their future with the corporation. Some, she said, are being offered positions with Whirlpool while others are being notified of their transitional status with Whirlpool and some being notified of their separation date. She would not state the number of individuals who have been notified of their status.

A decision on the future of the Newton plant will be made in the coming weeks.

Jeff Noel, Whirlpool’s vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, said all Maytag plant operations are undergoing an evaluation process that will determine their future in the integrated company.

“We are currently evaluating all former Maytag operations, including those in Iowa, against the same standards governing each of Whirlpool’s operations,” he said. “Evaluations are based on overall competitiveness within the global home appliance industry, including the ability to manage process improvements, productivity and operations efficiency.”

Prior to its sale, Maytag officials said its Newton plant was its highest cost operation.

Whirlpool has 26 manufacturing and technology centers in the U.S. and, including Maytag plants, nearly 60 around the world. Besides the U.S., Whirlpool has production operations in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Italy, China and India, Lau said.

When Whirlpool acquired Maytag on March 31, the company said it would make decisions on future Maytag operations within 30 to 60 days. Whirlpool has scheduled a conference call with members of the investment community on May 23 to discuss the Maytag integration process.

State attempts to keep Maytag jobs in Newton

April 27, 2006
State attempts to keep Maytag jobs in Newton
 
Date April 27, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By O. KAY HENDERSON

Radio Iowa

Special to the Daily News

Whirlpool executives will meet with state officials this afternoon in Des Moines to talk about the future of the Maytag plant in Newton.

Gov. Tom Vilsack said the state will offer a “significant” package of incentives to try to keep Whirlpool from closing the plant, but he isn’t revealing the details beforehand.

The governor said he and other officials will stress the productivity of the Newton-area workforce and the city’s commitment to the plant, and the state will offer “significant resources behind an effort to make that company competitive” in the worldwide appliance industry.

“Our hope is that that will be persuasive as they look at making some serious and some tough corporate decisions,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack adds, however, that he sees some unfairness in what Maytag‘s production-line workers face.

“There is an inherent unfairness in the current situation where Whirlpool successfully purchases a brand and a global market opportunity; shareholders of Maytag are paid a premium for their company and their stock; the C.E.O. of Maytag received a significant retirement package; the unsuccessful bidder for Maytag — Ripplewood — gets $40 million and the workers have to struggle to keep their jobs,” Vilsack said. “It’s not right.”

Today’s meeting in Des Moines is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Whirlpool made its bid to acquire Maytag final about a month ago but executives of the Michigan-based company have not said what they plan to do with Maytag‘s facilities in Newton.

Whirlpool reports 37 percent increase in quarter earnings

April 25, 2006
Whirlpool reports 37 percent increase in quarter earnings
 
Date April 25, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Associated Press

and Daily News Staff

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Whirlpool Corp., which completed an acquisition of rival appliance maker Maytag Corp. on the final day of its first quarter, said quarterly earnings rose 37 percent with help from strong trade and consumer demand for its products.

Whirlpool beat Wall Street’s expectations by reporting first-quarter earnings of $118 million, or $1.70 per share, compared with $86 million, or $1.26 per share, in the same period last year.

A consensus of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had predicted earnings per share of $1.52.

Sales rose 10 percent to $3.5 billion, from $3.2 billion. Whirlpoosaid in a written statement that the results reflect the company’s 19th consecutive quarter of year-over-year sales improvement.

The results do not include Maytag‘s first quarter results. However, during a conference call today Whirlpool said Maytag saw 8 percent growth in its core business platforms during the first quarter. Whirlpool would not comment on Maytag‘s floor care and commercial product lines, only saying that they continued to evaluate those businesses, including their possible sale.

In announcing the record first quarter results, Whirlpool said expenses of $13 million related to the takeover are included in the first-quarter operating profit calculation. Maytag‘s results will be included in Whirlpool’s second-quarter statement of operations.

Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool’s chairman and chief executive officer, said during the conference call that additional information concerning the ongoing integration of Maytag into Whirlpool will be announced on May 23.

“The acquisition is progressing well, according to plan,” he said. “On May 23, we will go into more detail and give guidance based on the combined operations.”

While skirting most questions pertaining to the Maytag buyout, Whirlpool officials said they have had positive reaction from retailers who feel Whirlpool is better positioned to improve Maytag product line innovations and improve its cost structure. Whirlpool also will be able to reach a broader base of consumers with the acquisition.

Dave Swift, president of Whirlpool’s North American operations, said the company will release an entirely new laundry line in the second quarter, the result of Whirlpool’s largest ever product investment initiative. Sixty percent of the products that will be sold at the end of this year did not exist at the end of 2005, he said.

In responding to a question in regard to Maytag‘s involvement in that launch, Whirlpool officials said the launch plan was in the works prior to the company’s decision to acquire Maytag.

“Industry demand remains positive and we continue to maintain our outlook on the strength of the economic environment despite volatile commodity prices,” Fettig said.

“Our plans, which include accelerating new product innovation to the marketplace, driving total cost productivity, controlling spending by reducing overhead and infrastructure while increasing investments in consumer activities and managing our overall mix of business, remain on track,” he said.

“The process to integrate Maytag and Whirlpool businesses is proceeding as planned and we look forward to providing additional information regarding the merger, as well as updating our guidance on May 23, 2006,” Fettig said.

Record unit shipments, sales growth and a positive product mix combined with productivity improvements to offset acquisition related expenses, higher commodity prices, higher new-product introduction costs and increased restructuring costs.

Results also benefited from a reduced effective tax rate, Whirlpool said.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool completed its acquisition of Newton, Iowa-based Maytag on March 31. The value of the deal was about $1.79 billion, or $2.6 billion including the assumption of Maytag debt.

ApplianceMagazine.com reported Friday that Whirlpool is among bidders for South Korean appliance and electronic’s maker Daewoo. No discussion of that report was held during the conference call.

In early trading, Whirlpool stock was up more than $2 on the news of its first quarter earnings.

Gov. Tom Vilsack said Monday he plans to convene a meeting of Whirlpool officials and representatives from Newton, Amana and North Liberty Thursday afternoon.

Maytag has more than 4,000 workers in the state at its corporate headquarters and laundry factory in Newton, a refrigerator factory in Amana and a warehouse in North Liberty.

State and local officials had been meeting with Whirlpool even before the deal was finalized to make the case for keeping jobs in Iowa.

Iowa Department of Economic Development Deputy Director Tina Hoffman said tax credits, job training and grants are possible incentives that could be offered to Whirlpool.

“We have had some conversations with Whirlpool since the closing of the acquisition and in addition to talking about the business climate we have here in the state and the productivity of our workers, certainly the tools that are available for job attraction and retention have been part of that conversation,” she said.

Daniel F. Verakis, a Whirlpool spokesman said representatives of the company’s government affairs staff are expected to travel to Iowa for the meetings.

On April 12, the Iowa Senate passed a resolution, in which lawmakers welcomed Whirlpool to the state. The resolution said the state “eagerly stands ready to assist the Whirlpool Corporation in any way feasible to ensure its success in the global market with operations in Iowa.”

Local, state officials to meet with Whirlpool on Thursday

April 24, 2006
Local, state officials to meet with Whirlpool on Thursday
 
Date April 24, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Whirlpool Corporation is continuing to move swiftly to integrate Maytag while representatives of several Iowa communities with Maytag operations prepare for a face-to-face meeting later this week with representatives of the world’s largest home appliance manufacturer.

Speaking at the weekend Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago, Whirlpool officials said they are working quickly to determine how to arrange the various appliance brands it now owns, Reuters reported.

“My expectations are that we’re going to have a very smooth process,” said David Swift, Whirlpool’s president of North American operations. “There’s going to be some tough decisions we have to make and we have to appropriately lead our company through that.”

Whirlpool acquired Maytag late last month for $1.7 billion in stock and cash after the U.S. Justice Department decided against challenging the merger. The decision came as a surprise to competitors, although they do not expect the combined companies to impact their business, Reuters also reported.

“I don’t think many of the manufacturers expected the government to approve without any conditions,” said Soon Kwon, president of digital appliances at the U.S. segment of South Korea’s LG Electronics, at the same industry show. “It was a real surprise.”

Whirlpool officials said last month that it planned to have decisions made pertaining to Maytag operations within 30 to 60 days. Local workers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they have been told that positions at the headquarters building could be decided as early as next week with workers at the plant learning its future sometime in the middle of next month.

“It’s very important that we ensure there’s appropriate differentiation,” Swift said. “The last thing we want to do is create a situation where we don’t have clarity of what the brands represent.”

State and local officials will meet with Whirlpool officials in a closed door session in Des Moines on Thursday. Representatives from Newton, Amana and North Liberty are expected to address the business advantages of continuing Maytag operations in those communities, officials with the Iowa Department of Economic Development said in a release sent Friday.

“While the state is talking with Whirlpool executives about the overall business climate and available assistance tools that Iowa may offer, we also want to make sure that each community affected has an opportunity to articulate their particular business and quality of life advantages,” said Gov. Tom Vilsack in the prepared IDED statement.

State lawmakers are attempting to assemble an incentive package designed to convince Whirlpool to continue operations at its Iowa facilities.

Whirlpool also will likely address Maytag when it holds a conference call on Tuesday to discuss first quarter results.

Former Maytag employee sentenced on mail fraud charges

April 19, 2006
Former Maytag employee sentenced on mail fraud charges
 
Date April 19, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
DES MOINES (AP) — A former Maytag Corp. employee was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on a charge of mail fraud after mailing herself checks written on company accounts.

Lisa Michelle Pope, 38, of Knoxville, was sentenced Friday, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker.

Pope, who goes by Shelly Pope, must also pay $41,000 in restitution.

Pope entered a plea agreement with prosecutors on Nov. 3.

She was employed by Maytag‘s legal department in Newton and used her position to write three checks in February and March 2004, Whitaker’s statement said.

The checks, which totaled about $103,000, were deposited into her bank accounts in Pella and Newton and used in part for personal purchases, court documents said.

Maytag recovered about $62,000 from Pope’s bank accounts after the fraud was discovered, Whitaker’s statement said.

Whirlpool will honor Maytag Foundation’s current commitments

April 11, 2006
Whirlpool will honor Maytag Foundation’s current commitments
 
Date April 12, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By JESSICA LOWE

NDN Staff Writer

Members of organizations and programs in Newton that once received funding from Maytag received some surprisingly good news following the acquisition of the 113-year-old company by rival Whirlpool Corp.

Jody Lau, Whirlpool manager of global communications, said Monday that the Whirlpool Foundation would honor the commitments made by the Maytag Foundation.

“Both Whirlpool and Maytag have had very strong histories of supporting their communities,” said Lau. “We are committed to honoring the commitments already made and then evaluate them for the future.”

As early as March 31, the day the acquisition was finalized, organizations were receiving letters from Whirlpool Foundation stating its intent to continue financial support.

Newton Community School District Superintendent Steve McDermott said he had not been personally contacted by the Whirlpool Foundation but had heard it would honor prior commitments, which include the matching grant allotted to Newton Community Educational Foundation.

“It was great news,” he said. “It obviously is a funding source that we were concerned will dry up.”

The matching grant to the NCEF was $2,036 for 2004-2005, and the foundation has received funding in the past as well, McDermott said.

“That match is very important to us,” he said. “That grant money provides revenue for special learning opportunities beyond what the school typically provides.”

The Whirlpool Web site stated the Maytag Foundation has funded more than $1.5 million annually to its community and that the Whirlpool Foundation would meet those commitments for 2006. Among those programs previously supported by the Maytag Foundation include a match grant to the NCEF, scholarships to high school seniors, grant funding to the Community Innovation Awards, donations to the Newton Community Theatre renovation project and funding to Hospice of Jasper County, to name just some.

“We do have to keep in mind how much the Maytag Foundation has done for our schools and our community. We have to appreciate this (funding from Whirlpool Foundation) and not take it for granted,” McDermott said.

Local talent hilarious

April 11, 2006
Local talent hilarious
 
Date April 11, 2006
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

My husband and I were some of the lucky ones to attend the last performance of the year at Sugar Grove Winery. It was extremely talented local talent, doing Vaudeville at its best and was hilarious. The group of John and Elaine Mattingly, Gary Kopsa and Cara McCulley do not get the public recognition they deserve. Add to the humor (and great service) of our waiter, David McDowell, and you were guaranteed a great evening.

Thank-you to Doug Bishop for a very well written letter to the editor concerning Maytag‘s top management and their severance packages. You cannot give someone a conscience, they are either born with or without one. We have said for years that what was happening at Maytag was a “controlled failure.” Nobody ever understood why. The people at the top were making huge sums of money anyway. Why ruin so many lives financially by taking us down? Personally, I don’t have a bad feeling about Whirlpool, time will tell.

The buzz around town the last few weeks, is that Cabelas is coming to town out by the new hotel and indoor water park. Is this going to be like the race track? By the time it is officially announced, it will be the “worst kept secret” in town. I hope so — it would be great for Jasper County.

Kathy Richardson

Newton

Lawmakers budget Whirlpool incentives

April 11, 2006
Lawmakers budget Whirlpool incentives
 
Date April 11, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By Rod Boshart

and Dave DeWitte

The Gazette

Special to the Daily News

DES MOINES — Gov. Tom Vilsack and state legislators are assembling an incentive package designed to convince Whirlpool officials to maintain manufacturing jobs at Maytag Newton and Middle Amana plants in Iowa.

“The governor has asked us to put some money in the budget so he can come with an offer if he has to,” said Senate Co-President John Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg. “A package is being looked at to try to keep the jobs in Iowa.”

Kibbie said the governor is hoping to meet with Whirlpool officials to discuss the future of Iowa jobs following approval of Whirlpool’s purchase of Maytag Corp.

“I believe we will pass something in the Senate that will be one component of a package that the governor and the Department of Economic Development that the governor would offer to Whirlpool,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs. “Were going to take the recommendations from the governor and try to embody them in law and try to move quickly on that.”

A Whirlpool incentive package has become part of the fiscal 2007 budget negotiations under way between Vilsack and top legislative leaders –partly because other states are competing for the Iowa jobs that could become the focus of a “bidding war,” Kibbie said.

“That’s kind of the name of the game,” Kibbie said. “The governor’s asking for some flexibility” within next fiscal year’s budget to areas such as job training or retraining for existing Maytag employees or potential new workers.

Whirlpool acquired Maytag on March 31. Analysts foresee a potential for major work force reductions in Maytag‘s Newton headquarters and laundry products operation. Widespread layoffs are less of a concern at Maytag‘s refrigeration products in Middle Amana, although they remain a possibility.

Whirlpool spokeswoman Jody Lau declined to elaborate on what incentives the company might seek from Iowa, indicating that Whirlpool is still analyzing its facility and manpower needs as it combines existing operations with Maytag operations.

“We very much appreciate the professional manner in which Iowa is working with Whirlpool on the integration effort, and we look forward to working with the state and local officials throughout the process,” Lau said.

Lau said the evaluation will continue over the next 30 to 60 days. She said Whirlpool is evaluating Maytag operations in Iowa and other states, measuring them against the standards that have been in place at other Whirlpool operations.

DM exec buys Hake’s home

April 11, 2006
DM exec buys Hake’s home
 
Date April 11, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By JOHN JENNINGS

NDN Staff Writer

Former Maytag CEO Ralph Hake’s Newton home had been on the market since October. Now, the home has been sold, according to documents in the Jasper County Recorder’s Office.

Guy Gast, a Des Moines businessman, now owns the deed to the 4,200 square-foot, brick home at 315 W. 11th St. S. The home had been listed for $759,900, assessed for tax purposes at $533,970. Gast paid $641,000, according to the tax stamps on the deed. The buyer gets to keep the dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator and stove. The four-bedroom house sits on nearly two acres of land in southwest Newton.

Hake and his wife Robin had the house built in 2001 when he was named CEO of Maytag. Hake confirmed that he had put the house up for sale in October 2005, citing “personal reasons.”

Gast is president of the Iowa branch of The Waldinger Corporation, with headquarters in Des Moines. The company provides sheet metal, mechanical, electrical and plumbing services throughout the Midwest, with more than 800 employees in its four construction offices. One of the company’s most recent projects was heating and cooling ductwork for the Iowa Events Center.

Gast has been active on several local, state and national sheet metal industry committees. He also serves as chairman of the Associate Members Council for Master Builders of Iowa.