Newton Bounced Back After Maytag Closed, But Now Needs More Skilled Workers

NEWTON, Iowa -- "...when Maytag closed, our unemployment rate shot up to about 15 percent," said Chaz Allen, Director of the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation. "We have a lot of our people that weren't working, didn`t have jobs to go get, and that`s a double-edged sword, because what it did was it made Newton a place where there were empty buildings, an idle workforce. So, people wanted to come here to put our workforce back to work."

And that's exactly what happened.

"I would say within five to seven years we came back down to what the norm was in Iowa," said Allen. "But it took a lot of work and a lot of recruiting of businesses to come here to help put our folks back to work."

And while there were originally fears that Newton would become a ghost town after Maytag closed in 2007, companies like TPI, Trinity Structural Towers, Graphic Packaging, and Underwriters Laboratories, have helped Newton bounce back.

"And now we`re in a time where the unemployment is 2.6 percent," said Allen. "And, that's a double-edged sword, because everybody that wants to be working is working and then those businesses that want to expand are having troubled recruiting people to come into work."

So what's the problem?

"The missing component right now is skilled workers, number one," said Allen. "But then, the availability of workers when it`s 2.6 percent (the unemployment rate in Jasper County). "It's a great thing that everybody`s working, but then as you want to expand, you have to think how you`re going to do that and where you`re going to do that and so it's a good problem to have, but yet it is a problem."