Newton Development Corporation Executive Director Frank Liebl has engaged in a number of projects over the years to fill the jobs lost when Maytag left.
“Our goal is to continue to try and work with companies that are interested in filling some of our vacant buildings,” Liebl said. “We had great success last year in filling a number of buildings that have been vacant for quite some time, and that is our goal — to create a number of jobs, fill up available space and to try to shrink unemployment numbers.”
“We are just one entity that works in economic development,” Liebl said. “To take the community to where it needs to be it takes several people working together. I think we have seen that here in the past several months. We still have a lot of work to do.”
NDC already helped bring major employers to Newton, including:
Walter G. Anderson: In 2011, WGA purchased the former Maytag Regional Distribution Building, investing millions of dollars into Newton. They employ 44 people, and run two shifts. WGA also not only employs in Newton, but brings visitors to Newton. Every week, WGA has customers in their facility. They stay in the city’s hotels and eat at local restaurants.
• Windstream: When Maytag left, it left a lot of empty buildings. NDC worked hard to attract employers, and Iowa Telecom, which acquired one of the former Maytag buildings in 2007, eventually turned into Windstream.
• Industrial Realty Group: They acquired Maytag Plant II in 2007. They leased 335,000 ft. in 2008 to Trinity Structural Towers.
• Advanced Wheels: In August, Advanced Wheels leased about 100,000 square feet at Plant II from IRG. Within a few weeks, they were in operation. They currently have 12 full-time employees. A representative for Advanced Wheels informed the Daily News that they provide original equipment for tire and wheels.
• Pace Manufacturing: Originally, they were interested in Plant II, but found another location that better suited their needs at 1801 N. 19th Ave. E. They distribute and manufacture a number of hydraulic components to a number of companies.
• Underwriter Laboratories: UL purchased Springboard Engineering last year, and provided some major investments. Rather than relocating, they remodeled their Newton locations and expanded into the old Walmart building.
• Hawkeye Stages: Although there are not many jobs associated with Hawkeye Stages, they did provide some investment in the city. They purchased a building that remained vacant for years.
“We’re continuing, since Maytag left, to diversify our economy,” Liebl said. “People that work in economic development — from our group to the city and the county — are trying to get away from one huge employer, like Maytag. Those are great jobs, no question about it, but when a company like that leaves, you can see what it does to a community. Our goal it is continue to diversify, and so far we had some pretty good success.”
One of the biggest employers in Newton is the wind energy industry. During the nation’s “budget crisis” wind energy was a major area of concern. If the wind energy production tax credit wasn’t renewed by Congress, businesses like TPI Composites and Trinity Structural Towers would have lost a large amount of money and perhaps laid off workers.
The loss of funds would have hurt the city, but because Newton’s economy is not based off of one employer it will allow for a quicker economic recovery.
“Now that the economy is starting to turn a little bit, you will probably see another active year,” Liebl said. “We have a lot of space to lease.”
Some areas available are the Maytag II Plant, and some areas of the Newton Enterprise building.
Liebl is also hoping to improve the retail selection in Newton. The Iowa Speedway does not have much land developed around it. Kansas City developed their speedway, and Liebl hopes Newton can do the same.
“For years that speedway just sat out there and it was nothing,” Liebl said. “Now it’s another metropolitan area — almost. If we could get half of what Kansas City had, we would all be pleased.”
A proposed commercial property tax decrease implemented by the state could also increase businesses activity. There are a few companies that have expressed interest in Newton, but Liebl cannot talk about them as details are pending.
Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.