Local, state officials to meet with Whirlpool on Thursday

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.

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