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Manufacturer to add Newton plant

While the roller coaster ride of Newton’s economy has had its share of downs, another rise appears to be on the horizon. More manufacturing jobs could be headed to Newton after the city council approved a plan to bring a new manufacturer to town.

Details on the project were fleshed out at the Newton City Council meeting on Monday.

Walter G. Anderson company, a folding carton manufacturer based in Hamel, Minn., wants to set up operations at a former Maytag building with 175,000 square feet, located just east of the rail line through the Plant 2 area and just north of North 15th Avenue East.

The company makes cardboard packaging, such as cereal boxes and other food packaging, out of recycled materials. They print on the packages and then ship them off to food manufacturers.

“It’s very high tech, very impressive — a clean, well run operation,” Community Development Director Bryan Friedman said. “It should be a fantastic company to add to our community.”

All the new jobs would be at or above the average county wage level of $14.84 and at least 40 of the jobs would need to have a wage at or above 130 percent of the average county wage — about $19.29 an hour. The jobs would be added over the next three years.

Friedman noted that the project is not a done deal yet and likely will require state assistance to lure the new company to town. The Iowa Department of Economic Development is set to consider possible incentives for Walter G. Anderson to add a facility in Newton at a meeting Thursday. If approved, Newton would have to provide a local match of at least 20 percent of the state aid. The council report indicated that the city could meet this obligation using the 10-year industrial property tax abatement the city already offers. Taxes would be abated on a sliding scale, up to $100,000 over a period of ten years.

Friedman estimated that the company would invest about $15 million into the community with this project. Council unanimously approved supporting the project, which now awaits the IDED board’s decision on Thursday.

“This is another good catch,” Newton Mayor Chaz Allen said.

Details of the 60 manufacturing jobs follows news last month that Marsh plans to add 150 jobs in Newton over the next three years. Windstream Corp. also announced last month that it would shed 146 jobs in Newton and plans to migrate its operations back to the former Iowa Telecom corporate headquarters on South Second Avenue.

Also last night:

• The street lighting plan around Iowa Speedway remained tabled for this meeting and will be revisited at a future council meeting.

• The council approved new parks department fees, that include 3 percent increases to memberships and golf cart storage at Westwood Golf Course.

• The council also approved the low bid for the city’s roofing project at Newton City Hall and the Fire Station for $88,910.

• The city removed two properties from the city’s Southwest Newton Economic Development Urban Renewal Area and TIF district. EconoLodge and America’s Best/Newton Inn were dumped from the district after their decreased valuation since 2004-2005 totaled about $1.1 million. Because those properties decreased in value, it was dragging increment within the district down to the point where the TIF fund was showing a negative balance. By removing those two properties, the overall increment gain in the district will go from $7.1 to $8.2 million.

The move will leave more taxes in the TIF district with about $40,000 less going to the city, county and school combined.

This move was offset somewhat later in the meeting when the city released $800,000 from the TIF district surrounding the former Maytag corporate headquarters.

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