A century of manufacturing in Newton comes to a close by Friday of this week when Whirlpool Corporation ends production at the former Maytag plant. The Newton community has been preparing for this moment since May of 2006 when Whirlpool acquired Maytag and some of the plant’s remaining 550 workers could clock-out for the final time as early as today, as the shut down will occur in stages.
A skeleton crew will work into November to completely close up shop at the plant, which once employed over 2700. Newton Development Corporation director Kim Didier says there’s an air of optimism in the community despite that somber milestone.
"It just goes to the resilience of the Newton residents (and) the resilience of Iowans as a whole," she says. "They know and understand they’ve got skills and know and understand it’s a great place to live…and that it’s a great place to do business."
Some of the Maytag plant workers who’ve been laid off have received federal aid for community college tuition so they can retrain for another job. "We have this great workforce and that’s what leads me to be so optimistic about the possibility for many of those skilled manufacturing employees to be put back to work fairly quickly," she says.
Some former Maytag employees have already landed jobs at Caleris, a new Newton start-up that opened a business processing center in Newton last March. "They’re already up to 90 employees and even just yesterday had an employment open house because they continue to recruit for new employees — many of them former Maytag employees," she says.
At two o’clock this afternoon, leaders of the local United Auto Workers union plan to mark the plant’s closing with a rally in Newton.