Lawmakers budget Whirlpool incentives

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.

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