Archive for June, 2006

Jacob North to close Newton operation today

June 29, 2006
Jacob North to close Newton operation today
 
Date June 29, 2006
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Today is the last day on the job for 15 employees at Jacob North Printing after the Lincoln, Neb.,-based company decided to close its Newton operation.

Charlie Calhoun, president and CEO of the privately-owned printing company, said the decision to close the Newton facility was based on “current economic conditions.” He declined to elaborate but Jacob North, which has been located at different sites in Newton since the late 1980s, did a significant amount of printing work for Maytag.

Calhoun said the printing company’s 10,000 square-foot facility in the Newton Industrial Park will be put on the market for sale. He said that a determination on the equipment in the building had yet to be made.

In addition to its operations in Lincoln, Neb., Jacob North has operations in Omaha, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo.

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Maytag employees attend career fair

June 28, 2006
Maytag employees attend career fair
 
Date June 28, 2006
Section(s) Local News
   
 
Special to the Daily News

Whirlpool, working with Right Management, coordinated a career fair for Maytag employees recently at the DMACC facility in Newton.

The career fair hosted more than 70 local and regional businesses seeking to fill positions at their respective companies. More than 250 Maytag employees attended the fair.

“The career fair provided an excellent opportunity for Maytag employees to conveniently and effectively showcase their skills with companies in and around the state,” said Kim Miller, director, employee relations, Whirlpool. “Typically a career fair will generate interest from about 20 to 25 companies and this one had over 70 represented businesses. This speaks highly of the reputation and tremendous available skill of Maytag employees who are now beginning to pursue new career opportunities.”

Companies participating in the event represented a wide range of employment opportunities from manufacturing and financial services, to insurance and healthcare. Employees that attended the fair were encouraged to talk with employers about current openings at their company, as well as learn of employment trends and what employers are looking for in a prospective candidate.

Many Maytag employees who attended the fair have been participating in job search and career transition classes sponsored by Whirlpool. In early May, Whirlpool established a Career Resource Center and engaged Right Management, the world’s largest career transition firm, to assist displaced Maytag workers. Through the Career Resource Center Maytag employees receive assistance in all aspects of a job search.

Lori Day, director, Right Management’s Career Resource Center stated, “We are proud to be partnering with Whirlpool and to be able to offer assistance to Maytag employees through opportunities such as the career fair. We want to do all that we can to assist these employees in their career transition.”

Given the high level of interest demonstrated by both Maytag employees and participating business representatives, Miller indicated that an additional career fair event will likely be held during the fall.

Huge severance amounts are not exception

June 27, 2006
Huge severance amounts are not exception
 
Date June 27, 2006
Section(s) Columnists
By Wendell Wendt  
 
Like many other persons, I was amazed when I learned that the CEO of Maytag would receive about $17 million in severance pay when Whirlpool completed its acquisition of Maytag. However, a look at some other mergers shows that huge severance amounts are not an exception.

For example, the telephone giants AT &T and Bell South are planning a merger. If the merger goes through as planned, the CEO of Bell South and seven of his assistants will share $32.5 million in severance rewards.

Undoubtedly, financial maneuvers like the above are part of the reason Mortimer B. Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report, recently wrote an editorial with the title “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

In the editorial, Zuckerman says Americans still have faith that in this country a person can start out poor, work hard and become well off. We have that faith, he says, because as a people, we are natural optimists.

However, Zuckerman believes only a small minority now have the possibility of starting poor and becoming well off. This is a change, he says, that has occurred in the last 25 years and is an issue we must address with urgency. We must address it with urgency, not just for the sake of social justice, but “also to obtain the greatest benefits from the talents of our fellow citizens and maintain a cohesive community.”

Zuckerman backs up his contentions with statistics. As a nation, the U.S. experienced exceptional financial growth from 1980 to 2004. Our gross domestic product rose almost two-thirds, but during that period the wages of an average worker fell, once his income is adjusted for inflation.

Zuckerman gives three reasons for the decline in the probability of the American dream. They are: 1. Our tax system has become much less progressive. 2. “Globalization and technology have increased the rewards for intellectual skills, vastly increasing the value of a college degree.” 3. College-educated women tend to postpone having children, while at lower income levels women have children at a younger age, and more of them.

Zuckerman closes his editorial with these sentences, “We must make climbing the ladder of success a reality for more and more Americans, and begin reducing the gap between the rungs. This means that governments, at all levels, must give more of a helping hand to poorer qualified college students, expand preschool education and develop a tax system that no longer turns the American dream into an American nightmare.”

Conduct an autopsy on Maytag death

June 22, 2006
Conduct an autopsy on Maytag death
 
Date June 22, 2006
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

The failure of Maytag is causing major problems in a very large number of lives.

The death of one person results in an autopsy many times but only affects a relatively few number of people.

Since it is almost inconceivable that a robust, well-managed corporation could fail, shouldn’t an autopsy of some sort be performed to determine the cause of death? At the very least, other companies might learn how to avoid the same fate.

Could the governor appoint a group of knowledgeable former Maytag managers to perform this service?

Wouldn’t this be in the best interest of the people?

James Kirwin

Franklin, Tenn.

Whirlpool adds Meredith exec to its board

June 21, 2006
Whirlpool adds Meredith exec to its board
 
Date June 21, 2006
Section(s) Business
Brief  
 
DES MOINES (AP) — Whirlpool Corp. announced Tuesday that it has appointed Meredith Corp. chief executive William T. Kerr to its board.

Kerr’s appointment increases the Whirlpool board to 14.

Kerr, 65, is Des Moines-based magazine publisher Meredith’s board chairman and CEO.

Meredith publishes 25 subscription magazines including Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal and about 200 special interest publications. Its broadcast division owns 14 television stations.

Kerr also serves on the board of Principal Financial Group, a Des Moines-based insurance and financial services company. He also was a member of the Maytag Corp. board prior to the company’s sale to Whirlpool in March.

“Bill’s broad business and consumer background make him a valued addition to our board,” said Jeff M. Fettig, Whirlpool’s chairman and CEO.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool has sales of more than $19 billion and employs more than 80,000 workers. Its brand names include Maytag, KitchenAid, Whirlpool and Amana.

Whirlpool shares closed 21 cents lower at $79.16 on the New York Stock Exchange. Meredith shares closed 38 cents lower at $48.29.

County’s population up slightly

June 21, 2006
County’s population up slightly
 
Date June 21, 2006
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Jasper County’s population saw modest growth in the past five years even in the face of huge job losses at Maytag during that time period.

The county’s population grew an estimated 1.2 percent from April 2000 to July 2005, according to U.S. Census Bureau information released today. The new figures give Jasper County a population of 37,674, up 461 people from the 2000 census report.

Jasper County’s rate of growth is slightly lower than the state’s overall population gain of 1.4 percent. Iowa had an estimated population of 2,966,334 in July 2005 compared to 2,926,324 five years earlier.

Newton’s population was stagnant during the time period, gaining just five people from the 2000 census estimate of 15,602. However, during that time period as many as 2,000 jobs were lost at Maytag‘s Newton factory and its corporate headquarters site.

Residents moving into rural areas of the county accounted for most of the population growth. Rural residential populations rose 2.6 percent from 12,367 to 12,687, an increase of 320 people.

Among incorporated cities, Prairie City saw the largest numerical and percentage increase over the five-year period. The community located along Jasper County’s western edge adjacent to Polk County grew 4.3 percent, from 1,365 to 1,424, an increase of 59 individuals over the time frame.

Monroe added 30 new residents while Kellogg grew by 21. Only Sully (down 16) and Lambs Grove (down 7) saw population declines during the time frame.

The census data showed that most of the growth in the state occurred in and adjacent to Iowa’s largest communities of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Altoona, for instance, grew nearly 25 percent during the five-year time span, adding more than 2,500 people to its population base. Ankeny added nearly 9,500 residents, growing 34.5 percent.

Culver, Edwards visit with Maytag workers

June 13, 2006
Culver, Edwards visit with Maytag workers
 
Date June 13, 2006
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By JESSICA LOWE

NDN Staff Writer

Less than a week after winning the primary as the Democratic nominee for Iowa’s top office, Chet Culver visited Newton alongside the 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards.

Culver and Edwards were greeted by members of UAW 997 and community members at the local union hall, where the pair discussed Culver’s platform and the effect the closing of Maytag will have on workers, their families and the entire Newton community.

“My heart really goes out to each of the displaced workers and their families,” said Culver of the Maytag employees. “My commitment as governor is that I will fight every day for (displaced workers).”

Culver said he would work to help ease the transition process, begin a Displaced Workers Union, create a supplemental health program and restructure the re-education process.

“The biggest challenge is matching skills and interests to jobs available in the area. I’ve heard of too many stories that people go through the education programs, work hard, do well, get a degree of some sort and nothing is available,” Culver said.

Edwards backed Culver’s statements and added that changes need to be made in the United States’ trade policy to help American workers compete in a global economy. He also said there was a need for the federal government to recognize the importance of and to help the working men and women like those at Maytag.

“I would start by saying our government, both the state and federal government, need to recognize the men and women who have worked a job for 20 years, supported their families and are now 45, 50 years old and out of work deserve a little respect,” he told the audience. “The real starting place is a trade policy that recognizes the American worker should have the right to compete.”

Culver also discussed other major issues in his platform, including protecting women’s health care choices, enforcing laws currently “on the books” regarding illegal immigration, raising teacher pay to the national average and making college education attainable to lower and middle class individuals. Along with making a statewide scholarship pool that would be initiated in 2008 if he is elected, Culver said he supports programs like the Newton Promise that will make college accessible to everyone.

“I think any program at state or local level that can help (students) reach their God-given potential is a good one,” he said of the Newton Promise.

Lot of reasons for Maytag’s failure

June 12, 2006
Lot of reasons for Maytag’s failur
 
Date June 12, 2006
Section(s) Opinion
Brief  
 
To the Editor:

There is a lot of conjecture over how a once well managed and cash abundant Maytag corporation could have come to this end.

Amoung a lot of bad decisions lies an over riding fault.

The last group of CEOs were not willing to use the expertise of their knowledgeable staff. For some reason many CEO’s rise to the top from one area of expertise and right away think they have the same expertise in the other facets of the corporation.

As we know, profit is what is left over when the cost of sales is deducted from the sale of products. Since the vast majority of cost is generated in the manufacturing operation (labor and purchased materials), it would stand to reason that the manufacturing costs be given the highest consideration. Not so the last years at Maytag.

The biggest inefficiency in manufacturing comes from the cost of changing production rates. It generates line downtime, wasted management time, scrap, overtime, extra workers, layoff costs, etc. But instead of stabilizing the production rate, they dictated that rates be set at the highly unreliable marketing forecasts. Typically, this resulted in prodction rate changes.

In short, rates should have been set by what marketing’s feet were doing not their mouth. The CEO’s didn’t understand that the entire plant is staffed to build the given number of products each day and every time one unit doesn’t come off the end of the line the cost of everyone’s labor in the plant must be spread over the rest of production driving up the cost per unit and eroding profits.

Now, they did dictate that “lean manufacturing concepts” be adopted. They took these principles out of context from the Toyota system –just-in-time, Kaisens etc.

The authors of that system specifically state that these efforts will fail if production rates aren’t stabilized, and how right they are.

Another case in point was the decision to change all the computer systems in the corporation to the AS400. I don’t know if this made sense in financial or marketing but it was disastrous to manufacturing because it was unfriendly to the flow of materials causing line downtime and a fantastic amount of management time trying to make it work instead of working on productive endeavors. Again they wouldn’t listen to manufacturing.

In more than one instance, they threw millions at “upgrading the facilities.” These caused major interruptions in production and even if successful, wouldn’t have saved near as much as stabilizing production,which costs nothing to implement, if done right.

The litany goes on but this is where the major fault is, here and an inept board of directors. Then these same people walked away rewarded beyond belief.

Let this be a lesson to others lest it happen to them, and alas, it will.

Jim Kirwan

Franklin, Tenn.

City outlines plans to deal with Maytag job losses

June 9, 2006
City outlines plans to deal with Maytag job losses
 
Date June 09, 2006
Section(s) Local News
Brief  
 
By ANDY KARR

NDN Staff Writer

Bryan Friedman’s optimism for Newton’s future shines through every time he speaks before Newton City Council. On Monday evening, Newton’s community development director again showed his enthusiasm in outlining what the future has in store for the community in the wake of Whirlpool’s earth-shattering announcement in May that they would cease all Maytag operations here in 2007.

Friedman has made a habit out of using colorful metaphors when addressing council, whether it be an apple held over his head to demonstrate “Newton’s” law of gravity (to attract development) or the unlikely quote from rapper Eminem that he used Monday.

“We only got one shot. Do not miss our chance or blow this opportunity. It comes once in a lifetime. Yo,” Friedman said to chuckles from the audience.

While a future hip-hop career might be out of the question for Friedman, his never-say-die positive attitude underscores his central message: Newton should focus not just on surviving but also on thriving in the wake of the loss of the largest employer it ever had.

“Even when you see it coming, it still hurts to get socked in the gut,” Friedman said, Monday. “Twenty-six days ago we were socked in the gut, so to speak. when we got that jarring news.”

Before council, Friedman highlighted some of the things that are already occurring in Newton since Whirlpool handed down news of Maytag‘s departure.

Already, there is a job center set up in DMACC facilities — a joint effort between Whirlpool, DMACC and Iowa Workforce Development.

“This center provides a resource for workers who are losing their jobs and provides access to a full array of services from unemployment benefits all the way to retraining information and job fairs,” Friedman said.

He noted that Mayor Chaz Allen was in Washington this week to meet with federal officials about more aid for Newton.

The Newton transformation council has been meeting since October to plan a response to the Whirlpool/Maytag situation. The group consists of officials from Iowa Workforce Development, Iowa Department of Economic Development, Newton Development Corporation, the city, utility companies, congressional officials and Whirlpool officials.

“This group has an ambitious agenda,” Friedman said. “It’s to provide a unified response to mobilize resources to help better the futures of the workers affected by the Maytag pull out, to really focus on the best reuse for the Maytag facilities and to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to be fully supported in starting and accelerating new business opportunities.”

The community is diversifying the economy with the Prairie Fire development area taking shape around the Iowa Speedway. Friedman said the city fields daily calls from around the country inquiring into the development in Newton, including the old Maytag facilities.

“There are some fantastic spaces there,” he said, noting that getting companies to move into those spaces would cost money.

One way to overcome that, he said, is Iowa Values Fund, which last month earmarked $10 million to attract new business to Newton over the next three years.

“With this set aside, special attention has been spotlighted on Newton and I think it will hopefully draw more interest from interested parties for projects,” Friedman said.

To be eligible for those funds, a business must meet Iowa Values Fund criteria, which includes being fully collateralized and meeting a wage threshold of 130 percent of the average county wage. In Jasper County, that is in the $20-an-hour range, Friedman said, but would fall closer to $16 without the inclusion of Maytag jobs. The state also requires a 20 percent local match to access these funds.

Friedman suggested the city start a “Gravity Fund” for the local match dollars and to fund other community investments like infrastructure. And with Newton’s sesquicentennial coming up next year, Friedman likes the idea of forming a committee to hold a showcase celebration for the community.

“It would be fitting to have that milestone year also be a turning point in establishing a new community identity,” he said.

Friedman closed his presentation by calling for the community to stay confident and positive. People should hold family reunions here to show off Newton and attend local events like the Iowa Sculpture Festival at Maytag Park this weekend.

“The last thing we need to do is pull back in fear — back into our shell like a frightened turtle,” he said. “These extraordinary times call for some bold action. If necessity is the mother of invention, then this is a big mother.”

Mayor Allen meets with labor officials

June 8, 2006
Mayor Allen meets with labor officials
 
Date June 08, 2006
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By ANDY KARR

NDN Staff Writer

Newton Mayor Chaz Allen is in Washington this week, meeting with federal officials to discuss the possibility of aid for laid-off Maytag employees.

Allen met with Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Emily Stover DeRocco on Wednesday and said the meetings helped him understand the process of applying for aid.

“It went incredibly well,” Allen said. “They were very receptive and very willing to make the best effort to get what we need.”

Allen said training adjustment assistance possibly could be obtained by applying. That funding would go to Iowa Workforce Development, which would then use it to help displaced Maytag workers receive additional training and learn new skills.

“They’re going to let us apply early,” Allen said.

Today Allen meets with Iowa congressmen Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell for further discussions on aid.

Allen said Grassley wants the Department of Labor to send a community action team to Newton to learn firsthand what displaced workers here need.

“The Department and I will host an economic development and community adjustment meeting for city and local leaders, workforce and education professionals, and local economic development partners,” Grassley said in a released statement. “It’s my intention to work with the mayor and have this meeting scheduled as soon as possible so we can get the Newton community the assistance they need.”