Last September, upon receiving a job offer here at the Newton Daily News, the first thing I did was type “Newton, IA” into my Google search bar.
Maybe I’m a true product of my generation, but I Google everything. It only made sense to utilize the website to learn as much as I could about this town along I-80 that I always passed on my drive to Ames, but had never actually visited.
After scrolling past Newton’s official web site and various Wikipedia pages, two listings in particular caught my eye — a pair of articles from the New York Times, one from 2006 and one from 2007.
If you’ve lived in this town for awhile now — heck, even for just a few years — you can probably surmise exactly what they were about. As an outsider, though, the headlines “Is There (Middle Class) Life After Maytag?” and “With Loss of Maytag, Town Faces the Loss of Its Identity” intrigued me, and I read every sentence.
I was just a week away from packing up all my belongings (which, at this point, mainly consisted of a desk, a bed and an overflowing closet of ISU T-shirts), moving the 383 miles to Newton from my parents’ house, and starting my first real job. I was, admittedly, a little intimidated.
I had no clue what to expect as I veered right toward Exit 164 and navigated First Avenue into downtown, but three months later I can tell you that every apprehension I had as a result of those Times articles has vanished.
It’s been five years now since the company that shaped this town so many decades ago finally closed its doors.
And while it’s impossible to escape its memory — some days it feels like half the things in Newton are named “Maytag” — to me, the people of this town have found increasingly positive ways to move on.
Wind energy is an expanding market, and Newton has not just one, but two plants deeply rooted in the industry. Local business owners are coming out of the woodwork, whether they’re opening a coffeehouse, purchasing a movie theater or renovating an older, worn-down property.
Events from the local Thunder Nites to the statewide Miss Iowa USA and Miss Teen Iowa USA pageants and nationally-televised races at the Iowa Speedway have drawn a large tourist base to town with no sign of losing steam any time soon.
In that regard, kudos to you, Newton. As ignorant as I may have been moving to town just a few months ago, you’ve proven me wrong.
I can’t wait to see what you’ll throw at me in 2013.