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MPC remains a community partner

By Diane Goodlow, MPC General Manager


I’m writing to address something that I feel very strongly and care very deeply about: Marengo Publishing Corporation (MPC). We have been proudly serving Iowa and Benton Counties for nearly 50 years. Our current publications for these counties are: The Iowa County Advertiser, The Four County Market, The Pioneer Republican, The Journal Tribune and The Star Press Union.

It seems that our dedication to our customers and communities has lately come into question. I have been an employee of Marengo Publishing since 1993 when I was hired as the bookkeeper for a company that was owned by Mike Simmons, Don Magdefrau, Dan DeBettignies and G. Alan Sieve, all were local residents of Iowa, Benton or Poweshiek county at the time. In 2000 the partners decided to sell the company to Gannett Corporation/Des Moines Register. This wasn’t an easy decision for these guys, but it was a good business decision on their part.

As a result, benefits improved for our employees, we were able to purchase new equipment that we couldn’t have afforded otherwise and the partners were able to see the company they built continue to service the communities as they always had in the past. Before the recession hit, most of our employees would tell you that things were good and other than better benefits, things really had not changed much. I would like to think that our customers felt the same way.

As we all unfortunately have had to experience, the recession did hit. There were layoffs, cutbacks and the closing of The Belle Plaine Union and The North English Record, and the merging of our three papers in Poweshiek County, which all were extremely difficult decisions. Printing operations were closed down in Marengo and our publications began printing at the Des Moines Register printing facility in Des Moines. As with most operational changes, we experienced some problems when we started printing in Des Moines. There have been some delivery problems, which for the most part, we have been able to solve. The rest, we continue to work on.

Our company was not the only local one to take big hits. Many local companies and businesses have had to make difficult decisions in a tough financial environment.

It was not pleasant to see any of these things happen. I personally had to say goodbye to co-workers and good friends, some of whom I had worked with for 16 years. If anyone thinks that was easy, they’re crazy! Seeing papers consolidate that had been in existence ranging from 40 to 140 years was a horrible experience. It’s a fact of business however, when revenue declines, expenses need to decrease also.

It’s true — we are owned by Gannett, which is based in Washington, D.C. But all of our employees in our Marengo and Williamsburg offices are residents of Iowa County and all of our employees in our Belle Plaine office are residents of Benton County. There is one exception to this. I still live in Brooklyn, which is in Poweshiek County, but trust me, if you want to find me you’ll have better luck finding me in Iowa County than anywhere else.

The average tenure for our employees is 14 years. Our paychecks come from Virginia, but the majority of the dollars from those paychecks, including mine, are spent in Iowa and Benton county businesses. We support our local car dealerships, retail stores, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, churches, gas and service stations, hardware stores, doctors and hospital, plumbers, community organizations and numerous other local businesses. MPC continues to bank in Marengo, we own our building in Marengo and pay property taxes in Iowa County. When customers stop doing business with our products, the impact on Gannett overall is relatively small. The impact on those of us who live and work here in Benton and Iowa county is huge.

Customers can walk into our offices in Williamsburg, Marengo and Belle Plaine and call the same phone numbers that they have for years. We are here to serve your advertising needs as well as cover our local and county government, school activities, family and other news.

We who work here do consider ourselves to be a local company that is dedicated to our customers and communities. We pride ourselves in providing great professional customer service and being honest and up front with all of our customers. I personally am very proud to be associated with all of these employees and this company. None of them has enjoyed watching some of the changes that have taken place over the last couple of years, but they have all continued to do their jobs, and anything that is asked of them with pride and integrity. I am also very proud of all of our products and yes, we will continue to serve Iowa and Benton counties for many, many more years to come.

The staff and I welcome any comments you may have.

UPDATED December 16, 2009 4:41 PM

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