A key legislator who’s also running for Congress is asking Whirlpool’s president what incentives the state might offer to keep Maytag’s Newton plant open after Whirlpool takes over. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, says the state came up with benefit packages that kept businesses like Wells Blue Bunny in LeMars, Lennox in Marshalltown and Electrolux in Webster City, and it could do the same for Whirlpool. “Now that the acquisition appears to be going forward, what I want to say is we want to work with them to try to retain jobs at the Newton plant,” Lamberti says. In the past, the state has done things like pay to retrain workers and state officials erased taxes on newly-installed machinery and equipment.
Lamberti says legislators and the governor need to figure out what obstacles Whirlpool sees at the Newton plant, and whether those or other incentives could fix the perceived problems. “I don’t think the quality of the workforce has ever been in dispute. You know, this is the workforce that built that company. We understand the challenges of a global economy but I wanted to send a message of my willingness to work with the company to make that highly-skilled workforce an asset for Whirlpool going forward and retain those jobs,” Lamberti says. “We’ve done it in the past and if we’re given the opportunity, I think we can do it again.”
Lamberti is critical of Democrat Congressman Leonard Boswell of Des Moines, who he hopes to unseat, for doing little to help the Maytag workers. “The one thing I don’t want to be about is saying to the workers at Maytag in Newton that ‘I support ya, I support ya, I support ya, but I really haven’t done anything. I haven’t made an effort.’ I want to let them know and I want Whirlpool to know that I am willing to make an effort to try to save those jobs,” Lamberti says. “It goes beyond simply having a pep rally with those employees. That doesn’t save jobs. Saving jobs requires rolling up your sleeves and going to work. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”
Boswell attended a Labor Day rally in Newton for Maytag workers. Boswell will be in Newton today (Thursday) at the “kick-off” event for Central Iowa Energy and its proposed soy diesel plant. This past fall, Boswell sent a letter to federal regulators opposing the sale of Maytag to Whirlpool. Boswell argued the acquisition would give Whirlpool a monopoly in the appliance industry.