Governor promises $10 million to help Newton By DAVID PITT AP Business Writer
NEWTON, Iowa (AP) -- Gov. Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced a $10 million plan to help Newton recover from the closing of the former Maytag plant and corporate headquarters.
The announcement came about three hours after Whirlpool Corp. announced it would close the plant, along with plants in Illinois and Arkansas.
"This is an extraordinary circumstance and it requires extraordinary action," Vilsack said.
Vilsack said he asked Mary Lawyer, the director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, to put together a "first-ever fund and resource" available to Newton.
"The state of Iowa is prepared to put $10 million forward to the community of Newton and Jasper County to enable them to aggressively work to create opportunities to either fill the existing facility, to build new facilities to bring economic development, to maintain economic activity in this community," Vilsack said.
He said the money would come from the Iowa Values Fund, intended to lure high-tech companies to locate or expand in Iowa, and be available over several years.
"It is unprecedented because this is an unprecedented circumstance and situation," Vilsack said.
Vilsack said the state had offered to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant for Whirlpool. The Benton, Mich.-based company declined, saying it already had such a plant in Ohio, where the operations will be consolidated.
Newton Mayor Chaz Allen said the community would begin working immediately with the state to help workers displaced by the plant's closing.
"Today is a disappointment," he said. "A lot of people put a lot of time into the retention of jobs.
"The $10 million will be a huge benefit to our community," Allen said.
He said despite the loss of the Maytag jobs, Newton is prepared to move forward.
"We prepared for this moment several years ago," Allen said.
He cited the development of the Iowa Speedway as one way the community has worked to diversity its economy.
"As our economy changes ... the resurgence of Newton has already begun," Allen said.
Whirlpool's announcement ended a long wait for former Maytag workers, who had hoped that at least some of their jobs would be spared.
Dave Russell, 45, worried about how his family, including his wife and three children would go on.
Russell has worked at the Newton laundry factory for 22 years.
"It's gonna hurt severely," he said. "It's not only devastating, but I'm sure it will, basically, turn into a very spiteful kind of feeling."
He wasn't surprised that production was suspended Wednesday after Whirlpool's decision.
Russell said some workers, who feel betrayed, could react with anger.
Former Maytag workers have counted on the iconic company, founded in this central Iowa town 30 miles east of Des Moines in 1893, for their livelihoods.
Russell said for many of his co-workers Maytag was the biggest part of their lives.
"Some people don't have any other type of life," he said. "Their friends are right there, they spend more time at the plant than they do at home."
Whirlpool said the jobs at the Newton plant, which makes clothes washers and dryers, would be consolidated at Whirlpool factories in Ohio.
Production at former Maytag plants in Illinois and Arkansas will also be sent to Clyde, Ohio, and Marion, Ohio, company spokesman Dan Verakis said.
The Amana refrigerator and microwave factory in eastern Iowa and a warehouse in North Liberty will remain in operation, Whirlpool officials said.
Russell said some co-workers have said in recent days they don't care anymore.
"But, you know they really do," he said.