By PETER HUSSMANN
The Maytag Corporate campus in downtown Newton would be converted into a transitional learning center and residential living space for as many as 800 U.S. military veterans under a proposal being put together by a Des Moines based non-profit group.
Bob Krause, representing the Veterans National Careers Corporation, said numbers are still being crunched to determine the viability of the plan to turn the former headquarters facility into what would be called the Patriots Campus, a facility that would provide veterans with the educational training and therapy healing opportunities needed to transition them back into life in the U.S.
Krause, a former state lawmaker, said the group has yet to make its pitch to acquire the facility from Windstream Corporation, but said they plan to make an offer "quite soon." Windstream is offering the former Maytag campus property for sale for $1.
Under the plan, which is expected to receive funding through the Veterans Administration and USDA rural development, veterans would be screened for acceptance into the program. Veterans would be required to attend life skill training classes, likely provided by DMACC, in such trades as welding and computers, and receive "holistic healing" therapy intended "to get them back into the economy," Krause said.
He said those veterans not following the rules of the program would be removed.
Krause said the multi-story Maytag corporate structure would be converted into dormitory style living space for the 800 veterans. Other areas of the building would be turned into classrooms. He said he envisioned that retail shops would also be part of the campus. Its current tenants, Caleris and Madhouse Brewing, would be invited to stay.
The current financial figures for the Patriots Campus indicate it would operate with a $9.5 million annual base budget. It would employ up to 70 full-time workers, Krause said.
Due to the substantial remodeling work invovled, Krause said he does not envision the Patriots Campus opening until late 2013.
Krause said the non-profit does not intend to ask for city or county financial assistance. However, since it would no longer pay property taxes, he said the program would work with the city on purchase of service agreements for such things as library, hospital and YMCA services.
The program would address a national issue in providing training and medical services for returning veterans. Nationally, some statistics show that unemployment rates for veterans are as high as 39 percent.
Krause said the effort to open the training facility is the third site the group has sought to use for the development of such a program. An effort to turn the veterans home in Knoxville into such a use was not accepted and an effort to convert a closed college campus in Nebraska was unable to be completed.
The organization is still working to determine if it can carry the costs associated with operating the campus and won't make an offer to Windstream to buy the site until they are "absolutely sure." However, Krause said he is "optimistic" it will happen.
"There's nothing like this around the country," he said.