The nearly 23-hundred employees at Maytag facilities in Newton were told this (Wednesday) morning that Whirlpool will close the production plant in Newton by the end of 2007 and close the administrative offices in Newton by the end of this year.
Shortly after eight o’clock, employees in Newton were told to go home for the day. Governor Tom Vilsack spoke at a news conference at 11 o’clock, and he said the state had offered Whirlpool the largest incentive package ever offered by the state, but it wasn’t enough. “This is a difficult day for the Newton community and Jasper County and for all of Iowa,” Vilsack said. “Unfortunately, the marketplace is a difficult place, a place that doesn’t have the capacity for compassion. The marketplace has to make decisions based on numbers.”
Vilsack is proposing what he calls “unprecedented” state grants for Newton-area businesses. A new, $10 million state fund for Jasper County has been created that will be handed out to new businesses, expanding businesses or a business that would use the Maytag facilities. “This is an extraordinary circumstance and it requires extraordinary action,” Vilsack says.
Production of the machines made at the plant in Newton will shift to a Whirlpool plant in Ohio. Vilsack says Whirlpool executives told him that five machines can be made at that Ohio plant in the time it takes to make one in Newton. “When the state learned that, we proposed the possibility of building a brand new plant, a state-of-the-art ‘green’ facility,” Vilsack says. “Whirlpool suggested that they had no need for that since they already had a state-of-the-art facility in Ohio.”
The 2500 workers at the Amana plant in Amana are not included in today’s announcement. “So, we’re going to continue to work to preserve the jobs at Amana and hopefully, if they are preserved, to grow and expand that opportunity,” the governor says.
KCOB-AM broadcast Vilsack’s news conference in Newton live and you may listen to it by clicking on the link below. Whirlpool stock fell almost a dollar after today’s announcement.