Economic Development Board Recommends $6.5 Million for Whirlpool Corp.

By James Q. Lynch

DES MOINES - A $6.5 million forgivable state loan to Maytag will allow the company to modernize its Amana plant and retain 1,600 jobs in an increasingly competitive appliance manufacturing market.

"Our strategy is simple," said Maytag Vice President Jeff Noel after the Iowa Department of Economic Development board approved the loan -- $4 million this year and $2.5 million next year. "We need to have the best cost, best use of assets, best quality and make the best products.

"That's what this entire package is all about – helping us fulfill that strategy of having a long-term, viable company," Noel added.

Improvements at the plant will begin soon, Dan Smith, division vice president at the Amana plant, said. Maytag already has quotes for energy-efficient lighting, he said, and will move as soon as possible on a new roof and, perhaps, a new coat of paint. Other improvements will address quality and safety as well as productivity measures to improve the flow of manufacturing to give the plant more flexibility in meeting customers' needs.

The entire package also includes $1.5 million in Tax Increment Financing by Iowa County and the plant's employees, Noel said.

Smith praised their work ethic.

"We've thrown a lot of change at them and they've taken it in stride and run with it," he said. "We will continue to change. We couldn't be more proud of how they handle the change. That's crucial."

Given that Maytag's competition is, for the most part, based in low-cost countries, Smith and Noel said it's the company's confidence in the hourly employees that helped them decide to make the investment in Amana.

"We are committed to keeping jobs in Iowa, keeping jobs in the United States, so we need to make changes and make improvements to drive that sustainability," Smith said.

Those employees and the investment by the state and Maytag are essential to the economy of the region, according to Mark Seckman of Priority One in Cedar Rapids and Joe Raso of Iowa City Area Development Group.

"This project is vitally important to the entire region," Seckman said, explaining the Amana plant has suppliers in West Branch, Kalona and North Liberty, for example.

The continued operation of the plant extends beyond the Maytag employees, Raso said, to the rural communities where the employees and suppliers live.

Technology Corridor Whirlpool Corporation Release February 18 2010
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