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Making History: Newton's Incredible Rebound After Maytag's Closure

Wind Energy Helps Newton Rebound in DSM USA

November 29, 2017

In May of 2006, Whirlpool announced they had acquired the Maytag Corporation and would close the corporate offices and manufacturing plant by the third quarter of 2007, eliminating the final 1,750 jobs.

Maytag had been part of the Newton Community for over 100 years and at one time employed over 4,000 people between the corporate headquarters and the factory. They had begun downsizing in early 2000. Even though many people in Newton suspected operations would cease in Newton, it came as a blow. Many families had three generations that worked at Maytag.

Newton was dealt a double blow. Maytag was ceasing operations in the fall of 2007 and the national recession hit a short-time later. The community came together in September of 2006 when more than 300 people attended a community forum. A vision statement was created, and the Newton Transformation Council was formed to guide us on the road to recovery.

One thing Newton had was a quality workforce and good buildings. The corporate buildings had over 450,000 square feet of Class A office space and the factory had over 1.8 million square feet of factory and warehouse space. In 2007, Caleris, a call center, was the first company to lease space in the corporate building.  Caleris has since been acquired by Aureon. They currently employ over 100 people.

Wind Energy in Newton

Soon, two companies with ties to the wind energy sector were interested in the Maytag manufacturing buildings. TPI Composites was about to sign a contract with General Electric to build wind turbines. The space at the former Maytag manufacturing plant didn’t lay out the way they needed it, so they built a 320,000 square foot building just northeast of the plant and began making blades in 2008 employing 500. Today, TPI employs 1,100 people. Trinity Structural Towers leased 330,000 square feet in the old factory and started making the towers that would support the wind turbines. They started with 100 and today employ 250.

More Companies Follow

Newton kept the momentum going. Between 2007 and 2017, thirteen new companies have located here and have created over 2,000 new jobs. Two companies, Global Fiberglass and TPI Composites recently made major announcements. Global Fiberglass has leased over 100,000 square feet at the former manufacturing plant. They will be taking down wind turbines across the Midwest that have been decommissioned and will grind up the fiberglass. A single blade makes 1,000 pallets that can be used for building walkways or vehicle flooring and other products. They will employ 57. TPI Composites just announced in November that they have signed a five-year contract with Proterra to build composite bus bodies. These bus bodies will be shipped to Proterra factories in South Carolina and California where the buses will be assembled for delivery. The Newton plant will open mid-2018. TPI in Newton will initially hire 108 people, and that number will ramp up to over 350 in 2019/20.

The former Maytag manufacturing buildings continue to spark interest from companies. Phoenix Investors LLC, out of Milwaukee, acquired the former Maytag Manufacturing buildings 2 ½ years ago and by making space in these buildings tenant ready, their investment is paying off. This 1.8 million square foot facility is now 60 percent occupied. Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) is now the owner of the former corporate campus, receiving the buildings as a gift in the fall of 2016 from Reza Kargarzadeh.  In the last several months, DMACC has been upgrading parts of the campus and is leasing space, at very affordable rates, in this facility located just two blocks from the downtown square.

Housing in Newton

With all the new jobs, Newton faced a housing crisis, so the City went to work and in 2014 created the Newton Housing Initiative, the highlight being, that anyone building a home valued at $160,000 and over would receive a check from the City for $10,000 the day they moved in. The City Council recently extended the $10,000 incentive through 2020. In 2017, the City has platted more residential lots than they have in the previous 12 years combined.

In 2009, unemployment reached 9.9 percent. In September 2017, the unemployment was 3.0 perecent — the lowest it has been since it was 2.7 percent in 2001.

The Newton Development Corporation continues to work with our partners, the City of Newton and the Newton Housing Development Corporation, Main Street, Jasper County Economic Development Corporation and the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce to make Newton a great place to live, work and grow.

Jasper County Economic Development Corporation and the Newton Development Corporation are economic development partners of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Greater Des Moines has one of the best business climates in the country. The region is nationally recognized for having a talented and educated workforce, a cost of doing business 15 percent below the national average, a low cost of living and an exceptional quality of life. Learn more here.

Frank Liebl

Frank Liebl has been the executive director of the Newton Development Corporation since 2007. Previously, he worked for over 35 years in the radio broadcasting business.