Newton is the county seat and most populous city in Jasper County, Iowa, United States. Located miles east of Des Moines, Newton, is in Central Iowa. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 15,254. It is the home of Iowa Speedway, Maytag Dairy Farms, and the Iowa Sculpture Festival.
Newton was founded in 1850 and incorporated as a city in 1857. In the late 19th century, Newton's growth was fueled by the development of coal mines in the region. The first significant mine in the area was the Couch mine of the Jasper County Coal and Railway Company, opened in the 1870s. It was, for a while, the largest mine in the county, producing 70 tons per day. William Snooks opened a mine near Newton in 1886. In the early 20th century, large scale mining in the Newton area had declined, but there were still several mines in the area that were worked intermittently.
Maytag and the era of growth
In the 20th century, Newton was a manufacturing community, much of its growth derived from the washing machine industry. Its most distinctive landmark, the Jasper County Courthouse, was built in 1911.
Newton entered the national stage in 1938 when martial law was declared during a strike at the Maytag Washing Machine Company. Iowa governor Nelson Kraschel ordered the Iowa National Guard to protect the company with tanks and machine guns ready against the workers. With the backing of four troops (companies) of the 113th Cavalry Regiment, Maytag company beat the strike and forced workers to return to work with a 10% pay cut.
In January 2007, Whirlpool said in a statement that it sold most of the Maytag headquarters complex to Iowa Telecommunications Services Inc., a Newton-based telephone company which would use the complex to consolidate employees in a single location.
Although the company did not disclose financial details, Newton economic development officials said Iowa Telecom paid $1.5 million for the buildings assessed at more than $12 million.
The Maytag plant officially ended production on October 25, 2007.
"Newton's future" and life after Maytag
After Maytag announced its departure, community leaders and City administration worked together to develop a plan to diversify Newton's economy. After the Maytag plant closed, unemployment skyrocketed—rising to almost 10%. In 2010, Jasper County has the highest unemployment rate of Iowa's 99 counties at 8.2%. However, in the following years, the unemployment rate dropped considerably—down to 5.4% in 2013. More impressively, Newton's population did not drop following the departure of Maytag. Newton has had a steady population of about 15,000 since the 1960s.
Since Maytag's departure announcement in 2006, the following companies have started in or moved to Newton: Underwriter's Laboratory, Trinity Structural Towers, TPI Composites, Caleris, Walter G. Anderson, the Iowa Speedway, Health Enterprises, Engineered Plastics Company, Pact Manufacturing, Advanced Wheel Sales, and Hawkeye Stages.
One of the industrial sectors Newton has attracted in recent years is green manufacturing. In December 2007, TPI Composites announced plans to open a plant to manufacture massive wind turbine blades, which are now in production. Additionally, Trinity Structural Towers, a company which manufactures wind turbine towers, opened in 2008. President Barack Obama visited the Trinity Structural Towers plant on April 22, 2009, that year's Earth Day. While at the factory in Newton, the President said that he traveled to the factory in order to usher in "a new era of energy exploration in America."
In 2012, the Newton City Council passed "Newton's Future: A Comprehensive Plan." The Comprehensive Plan was written with the input of Newton citizens and reflects the community's goals for the future; the top goals identified in the plan were to (1) Grow Newton's population, specifically targeting young families, (2) Increase employment opportunities, (3) Improve the City's curb appeal, and (4) Fill vacant buildings and increase local shopping options.
Famous airplane crash
On August 30, 1969, world boxing champion Rocky Marciano and two other occupants died when their airplane crashed in Newton. This was the third of a series of airplane accidents or incidents in Iowa involving celebrities, after a 1959 accident in Clear Lake and a 1960 incident in Carrol that involved a plane carrying the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.