Economic Modeling Specialists (EMSI) and consulting firm Maher & Maher have partnered with the Newton Transformation Council to create a regional revitalization strategy for Newton, Iowa, and the surrounding area following the loss of a major Whirlpool manufacturing plant. The work is being funded by more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Labor (including a Regional Innovation Grant and National Emergency Grant — see news releases here and here).
The closure of the laundry appliance manufacturing plant in Newton follows Whirlpool’s March 2006 acquisition of Maytag, and will be complete by December 31st, 2007. Maytag’s corporate headquarters in Newton is also being closed as part of the restructuring. Prior to the acquisition, the area had already suffered from 2,000 job cuts over a five-year period, and after the acquisition it became clear that another 1,800 local jobs would be lost, and along with it the plant’s nearly $100 million annual payroll (some 15% of the town’s jobs and 40% of its residents’ earnings). Currently there are only a few hundred workers remaining at the plant.
In the face of such challenges, the region will need to make remarkable strides in order to mitigate the impact of the losses and map a new strategy for its economic future. EMSI and Maher & Maher are proud to be taking part in this effort. In its role as economic analysis and data consultant, EMSI is contributing the following services:
- EMSI completed an initial regional analysis to determine the boundaries of the local labor market and Newton’s functional economic area using commuting patterns, intra-regional trade, and infrastructure considerations. This is needed to model the event’s impact properly and to help define the geographic boundaries to be used for data collection, analysis, and asset mapping. The first draft of this report has recommended a two-tiered model for approaching future studies, separating the “acute region” around Newton and basically within Jasper County from the larger “asset” or “spillover” region that includes 9 counties and the cities of Des Moines and Ames on this western border.
- EMSI is also modeling the total impact of the event using EMSI’s input-output tools. Initial analysis indicates that the total direct, indirect, and induced job losses will be about two and a half times the number of jobs directly lost by the Whirlpool closure. In addition, EMSI is modeling the total positive impacts of new employers that are moving into the region.
- EMSI is analyzing alternative industries and occupations for recruitment which could make use of the Whirlpool workers’ current skills and knowledge with minimal re-training time and cost. This will help target economic development efforts while retaining more of the local workforce.
- EMSI is creating an “asset map” of the larger Newton-Ames-Des Moines area to uncover its unique regional advantages in terms of industry presence, workforce, educational resources, innovation indicators, physical and financial infrastructure, and more.
- Using previous analyses, EMSI will help develop a data-driven regional SWOT analysis to identify promising redevelopment strategies and evaluate the feasibility of other proposed strategies.
Meanwhile, Maher & Maher is working with regional stakeholders to
- Lead and organize strategic planning efforts
- Facilitate collaborative decision making and strategy implementation
- Facilitate organizational change and development to increase flexibility and innovative problem-solving