For 115 years, Newton, Iowa, was synonymous with Maytag.
“When you look at a company that had been here 100 years, there were families that had three generations that worked at Maytag,” said Frank Liebl, executive director of the Newton Development Corporation.
Maytag left Newton 15 years ago, taking 2,000 jobs with it.
“We decided early on that we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Liebl added.
Liebl says Newton recruited 12 new companies within four years, many in rising industries like wind energy. Those companies replaced Maytag’s jobs and, in some cases, retrained its employees.
“Over the course of time, about a third of their employees were former Maytag people. So, they had to retrain and learn new skills. And it was a great thing for the community, and they were willing to do that,” Liebl said. “In essence, companies come and go, but you’ve got to hang on to your talent. And that was our strategy, to hang on to the talent.”
They also invested in housing by adding units and offering $10,000 to anyone building a new home. As a result, during a decade where most American counties saw their population fall, the city of Newton has seen it rise. Newton has become a blueprint for other communities that have lost a major employer.
“What we hear now is, ‘Oh, you’re from Newton? You guys have got a lot of good things going on there,’” Liebl said. “I think the attitude around the community is, ‘We’re not done growing yet.’”