Gov. Vilsack offers financial assistance

Gov. Vilsack offers financial assistance
 
Date May 10, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack offered assurances today to a worried Newton community that efforts will be undertaken by the state to bring economic opportunities to the area.

At a hastily called news conference late this morning in front of Newton City Hall, the governor, flanked by city, county and state officials, said he has pushed the Iowa Department of Economic Development to earmark $10 million from the Iowa Values Fund to assist the community in working to create job opportunities for displaced Maytag workers. In addition, the governor said he would seek help from federal lawmakers to ensure maximum job retraining allocations allowed under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act.

The announcement came on the heels of Whirlpool’s statement that it would close all of Maytag‘s Newton facilities, as well as other plant operations in Illinois and Arkansas. Total jobs lost as a result of the intergration decision are 4,500 across Maytag‘s North American operations.

“This is a difficult day for the Newton community and Jasper County and all of Iowa,” Vilsack said. “Maytag and Whirlpool have been signature companies, Maytag in this community for well over 100 years. Unfortunately, the marketplace is a difficult place, a place that doesn’t have the capacity for compassion.”

Vilsack said the state made every effort to persuade Whirlpool to keep the manufacturing jobs in Newton. The largest initiative package ever offered by the state — including offers to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for Whirlpool in Newton — was put on the table but in the end it was the inefficiencies assoicated with Maytag‘s nearly 60-year-old Newton plant that led to the decision to close it.

“I want to assure the people of Newton and of Iowa that the state of Iowa did everything it possibly could in an effort to preserve and maintain and expand job opportunities in this community,” Vilsack said.

He noted that Ohio was selected for future laundry operations because “for every machine that’s made here in the same time frame five machines could be made in Ohio.” He said, “that’s a gap that no amount of incentives could make up. We offered a new plant. Basically, they have a state-of-the-art plant today.”

Vilsack said Whirlpool assured him the decision had nothing to do with the labor costs in Newton.

“Whirlpool emphasized it was not about the workers,” he said. “They have nothing but the highest regard for the workers here in Newton. They recognized they’re highly productive and very hard working.”

The governor did say he was successful in extending the time frame for the closure of the plant. Two of Whirlpool’s former Maytag production facilities will close at the end of the year. Whirlpool gave him assurances that operations in Newton will continue until the fourth quarter 2007, he said.

He said efforts now will focus on the area’s future economic vitality. Calling the $10 million from the Value Fund an “unprecedented resource,” the governor said state will work with local officials to draw economic development opportunities to the area.

“The state of Iowa is prepared to put $10 million forward to the community of Newton and Jasper County in an effort to enable them to aggressively work to create opportunities either to fill the current facility, to build new facilities and to maintain economic activity in the community,” Vilsack said.

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