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Newton, Iowa Regional Innovation Grant (RIG)

As a result of the closing of the Maytag Appliance facilities in Newton, Iowa in 2007, that city and the surrounding region lost over a thousand direct jobs that had been the mainstay of the area for over a hundred years, and many more were lost as an indirect result. The city and region then applied for and received ETA’s first Regional innovation Grant (RIG).  Under that grant, Maher worked hand-in-hand with more than seventy stakeholders over a five month period to address a straightforward yet imposing challenge and overarching goal: Produce an integrated workforce/economic development Plan for the region surrounding Newton that would ensure a competitive and sustainable niche in the global economy.

No ETA-funded program had ever attempted that before without millions of dollars in program funds to supplement the planning process. As primary activities, we:

  • Assisted the region’s core leaders to identify, recruit, engage and retain a 70-person Leadership Group (LG);
  • Facilitated the regional LG and a series of four Core Work Teams through a six-step planning process that included five full-day on-site LG meetings, as well as dozens of virtual Core Team meetings;
  • Managed the processes and oversaw production of asset mapping, SWOT Analysis, skills gap analysis and industry cluster reports focused on “green” jobs and other high-growth industries;
  • Inaugurated an innovative approach to social network enhancement using survey techniques and specialized network mapping software; 
  • Incorporated best practices gleaned from other regional economic/workforce development planning efforts; and
  • Used the output from the LG and Core team meetings to produce a robust economic/workforce development plan for the region and supported the region through its execution. 

The Plan was well received by ETA, which used it as a model for the 38 other RIG grantees across the country. It may be viewed at the link below. Further, the region institutionalized its Leadership Group and was able to gain local, primarily private sector, funding to employ a full-time Executive Director for what has been branded the Iowa Innovation Gateway region.

More importantly, a year after the RIG landed in Newton and Maher & Maher was engaged for support, Trinity Structural Towers built a wind energy plant at the former Maytag site to produce towers that support wind turbines. To help train workers for jobs in the new plant, the region leveraged a portion of the over $500 million set aside by the federal government to encourage worker training for such “green jobs.”  Since Trinity arrived, four additional companies have located in the region and created jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector. In all, the numbers of jobs lost by the Maytag closure have been replaced, and the region is well on its way to sustainable economic change supported by workforce and education systems whose activities are aligned to the economic vision. As recognition, to celebrate Earth Day in 2009, and again in 2012, President Barack Obama visited the recovering city of Newton, Iowa in support of energy exploration and green jobs.

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Cent_IA_Implementation_Plan_20080428 4 MB