When Maytag left Newton, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley knew it meant trouble.
Today, he’s happy to see other manufacturers, like Walter G. Anderson, make use of the facility. To show his gratitude, he toured the former Maytag warehouse facility Thursday.
“(I’m) glad to know that somebody is using a Maytag building,” Grassley said. “Isn’t that a legitimate thing after how hard we worked to keep Maytag here, and how it didn’t work out? And second of all, the tremendous amount of work that gets done in an efficient way through all the fancy equipment they have. Thirdly, to find out from the people who started the company that they think well of Iowa workers.”
Walter G. Anderson President and CEO Marc Anderson gave Grassley a personal tour. They talked about how the company is doing overall and how boxes are made. They also talked about politics.
“The senator — he was pretty fascinated to see (the) overall operation,” Anderson said. “It was larger than what he expected it to be. Gov. Branstad said he had the same impression. People are expecting printing operations to be small.”
Grassley was particularly impressed with the speed of box manufacturing.
“I am amazed that you can print so many boxes so fast,” Grassley said. “The other thing I think is (amazing) — since I believe so much in (protecting) the environment and recycling — is how much recycled material they use.”
Jasper County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Chaz Allen was in attendance and informed Grassley about declining unemployment numbers.
When Maytag closed, it raised the unemployment rate to about 15 percent in Jasper County. According to the latest unemployment reports, Jasper County has about a 7 percent unemployment rate, which is slightly higher than the state average of about 5 percent.
Allen told Grassley jobs added by companies like Walter G. Anderson and Trinity Structural Towers Inc. helped the county to recover from the loss of Maytag and that the county is working on providing companies with the proper workforce needed to compete in today’s market.
Grassley said he fought hard to prevent Maytag from leaving Newton and will continue to work hard to attract more employers to the area.
“I want to thank the company for inviting me to be here, and I look forward to helping them any way they want to, even though their cooperate headquarters is in Minnesota,” Grassley said. “I tell everybody that has business in Iowa that I consider them one of my constituents.”
Grassley also knows how important employment means to the community, and he is not alone.
When the Walter G. Anderson moved to Newton, many politicians visited the factory, and Anderson said he was surprised by how much the state and local community cared about the company.
“The interest that the high level of politicians/elected officials had taken in this operation in itself — I am very impressed with them,” Anderson said. “We don’t have anybody from Minnesota coming in and knocking on our door saying, ‘Hey, what can I do to help?”
“For Senator Grassley to put us on his stop — I’m just flattered with it,” Anderson said. “It speaks volumes on how much they (politicians) care about their state, their communities and what’s happening on a local level. I’m very impressed. We appreciate having him.”
Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at email@example.com.