NEWTON, Iowa — MidAmerican Energy is investing billions of dollars into creating new wind farms and re-powering their old ones.
The TPI plant in Newton manufactures the wind turbines MidAmerican uses, and economy experts say MidAmerican’s plan is adding stability. That means a lot, because for some people it feels like yesterday that leading Newton employer Maytag packed up and left town, taking 1,750 away jobs.
“It was a little devastating, it really hurt a lot of people in the community. A lot of stores went out of business and it was really hard for everybody, but it’s been really good the past few years,” said Newton resident Alida Anderson.
It’s been 10 years since Maytag left, and now 13 new companies have brought over 2,000 new jobs and unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The biggest employer is TPI, with around 1,100 jobs.
“You see a lot of these windfarms going to larger blades because they’re more efficient, and so having that contract with GE to continue producing is going to bode well for TPI,” said Frank Liebl, Executive Director of the Newton Economic Development Corporation.
Liebl says TPI is also adding more jobs, having just announced they will start producing commuter bus bodies.
“I think in 2018 they’ll probably start with about 100 jobs, and in the course of time as they ramp up they’ll be well over 350 in the next year or two down the road, so again, more jobs for the community,” said Liebl.
The future looks bright in Newton, not just because of companies’ business decisions, but because of infrastructure. A company out of Milwaukee has taken the old Maytag plant and revitalized it, leasing out space to prospective companies.
“They made it tenant-ready, and if they keep doing what they’re doing and have success in attracting people, it’s a good chance that by the end of 2018 all 1.8 million square feet could be leased,” said Liebl.
New companies are already taking up residence. Fiberglass Solutions will begin leasing space there in 2018. They recycle decommissioned wind turbines, and will be adding 57 new jobs.
The recent uptick in employment is not going unnoticed.
“It’s booming in Newton. We’re just selling houses like crazy. I work for Re/Max here in town and we’ve got lots of new listings, lots of people looking for houses. Not only because of new jobs, but because Newton has a lot of people from Des Moines that want to come over here and list with us as well,” said realtor Scott Neasham.
Liebl says between 70% and 75% of new jobs in a community will come from companies already in the community.