Rebuilding a more solid Newton

Keeping In Touch: Rebuilding a more solid Newton
 
Date May 18, 2006
Section(s) Columnists
Brief  
 
By DENNIS BLACK

State Legislator

The ramifications of the closing of the Maytag operations in Newton are felt in many, many ways. Initially, we think of the families affected by the action, and the heartache and uncertainty that come with a life of anticipation of having a good job, and providing for the needs of their loved ones. Although transition occurs for many, there yet remains the anguish and concern, for the working men and women must move on to salvage their family’s future and well-being.

We have but one mortal life, and throughout that life decisions are made that affect many in addition to ourselves. There was no reason to think that the men and women who decided to work at Maytag were facing what since has come to pass. After all, many were fifth generation workers, and just a few years ago, the reputation of the company was solid, stock prices were high, and production was calling for multiple shifts and overtime. Never shall I understand how the poor and provincial decisions of those in corporate leadership resulted in their being awarded with riches that would take most of us a lifetime to spend.

Many things are in the works, and additional conversation from five meetings I had over the weekend point to the fact that the new focus on Newton’s future should not have most of the eggs placed in a single basket. Diversification is the key, and manufacturing a variety of products enhances sustained economic viability and community vitality. As a community, we have a great reputation, and Maytag‘s workers were known for their education, training and dedication. Theirs was pride in a product with nationwide exposure, and even my travels abroad for agricultural sales and trade resulted in many identifying their knowledge of the Maytag brand.

The sooner we approach decision makers regarding potential manufacturing opportunities, the sooner a sense of stability will return to our community and citizens. With the massive infrastructure that exists along with the buildings that served Maytag, a plethora of options must be pursued. One example would be that of wind-energy generators and blades. My Natural Resources Committee, in one of the last bills before session adjournment, passed a “Wind Energy Tax Credit” bill. This was intended to serve as an incentive for those seeking to invest in wind farms, with the sustainable, renewable wind energy electrical production sold into the grid of electric companies. Yet, if you order a wind generator with its tri-configured massive blades, you have to wait 18 months to receive it. Ironically, most are made in Germany, and Newton with its central location is perfect. Many other ideas are in the offing, but again it is essential for community leaders to pause, reflect on the past, and be innovative in their consideration of the future. With the Iowa Values Fund available to assist in a variety of ways, revitalization won’t happen overnight, but we can rebuild the city into something far more solid in view of this global economy that is consuming worker and family ambitions and values.

As a final note, Rep. Paul Bell and I will be introducing legislation this fall, which should be ready for consideration in January of 2007, that would specify that Newton and Fort Dodge be “held harmless” in FY 2007-09 with any reduced state-aid to their schools, resulting from the loss of students. Anticipating reduced enrollment, in many cases the costs of administration, utilities, transportation and other fixed expenditures of the Newton Community School District will remain fairly static. Our school’s administration needs the opportunity to evaluate the situation of enrollment adjustments, and plan accordingly. I would guess our colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, would agree with this approach, and thus we shall vigorously pursue that opportunity for our school and district property tax payers.

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