Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon says while he feels “terrible” for the Maytag workers who’re losing their jobs in Newton, the plant’s closure is another sign that the state’s economic development strategy is misguided. “It’s clear to me that spending 24 million dollars in taxpayers’ money over the past decade has done nothing to keep those jobs in Newton,” Fallon says. “In fact, it looks to me like we’ve done nothing but enrich the out-going CEO with a severance package of 19 million dollars.”
One of Fallon’s competitors is former Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Blouin and Fallon has been a frequent critic of the Iowa Values Fund, the state’s multi-million dollar grant program for new or expanding businesses. Fallon says because of NAFTA and other trade agreements, the U.S. manufacturing industry is moving jobs to cheaper-labor countries, so “throwing” state taxpayer dollars at manufacturing companies is a waste. “We have to be honest with ourselves. There’s only so much we can do to tinker with a free-market economy,” Fallon says.
The state should instead focus on helping small businesses grow, according to Fallon. “I read about a gentleman working at Maytag who’s trying to start-up a salsa business. We ought to help him with that. There’s a market for that,” Fallon says. “There’s so many things we could do, but the problem is they don’t get that big press coverage. Little things that end up adding up to a big impact are what really matter.”
And Fallon says increasing state support of public education at all levels is another component of economic development because it will improve the workforce. “You know, more than anything I think most businesses want a high-quality workforce. They want to use their business intelligence to gain a profit,” Fallon says. “You can only throw so much public money at them and that’s not going to ever match what they’re going to accomplish with their own intelligence.”
Fallon says if he’s elected, he’ll also try to ensure that the state’s ethanol plants and wind turbines are owned by Iowans and Iowa companies, not out-of-state investors. “Those kind of things are going to create jobs and an economy that will stay in the state and not just pack up and move somewhere else,” Fallon says.
Fallon is praising Governor Tom Vilsack, a fellow Democrat, for creating a 10-million dollar fund that will help retrain Maytag workers and aid startup or expanding businesses in Newton. Fallon made his comments during taping of the Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press.”