The Times’ Feb. 22 editorial (“Wanted: Answers to Orascom deal”) criticizing Iowa’s efforts to bring a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to the state misses several relevant facts and more importantly, the bigger picture of the impact of Iowa’s job creation efforts.
One project in particular — the Iowa Fertilizer Co. — has been the target of a campaign of misinformation. But why?
Is it because the project will create 165 permanent high-paying jobs and more than 3,500 construction-related jobs in the Iowa county with the highest unemployment rate in the state?
Is it because this project will save Iowa farmers $740 million annually, according to the Farm Bureau?
Is it because this project will inject over $1.4 billion in the Iowa economy?
Those facts, all true about the Iowa Fertilizer Co. project that is moving forward in southeast Iowa, are usually celebrated by members of both parties. This time though, they’re not good enough.
Never mind that the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the agency I’m in charge of, has been as transparent as possible about this project — even informing legislators beforehand about the award the board would consider, detailing for them the nuances of the project, and providing metrics to independently measure the impact.
Never mind that our due diligence process was appropriately followed with this project, as it is with all of the projects our board considers. Never mind that, if something is missed, clauses in our contracts protect the state’s investment if a material violation of law or misrepresentation of facts is made by the company. In essence, our “due diligence” process continues for the duration of the contract.
Never mind that the U.S. government, despite originally bringing the lawsuit against Contrack International in 2004 for work done in the ’90s, continues to contract with them to the tune of over $2 billion of design-build projects over the last 10 years. Currently, Contrack has $300 million of on-going work and received awards of $170 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone.
As for the contention that Iowa was not credibly competing against Illinois for this massive project, the Times’ own article dated Sept. 14, 2012, quotes two Illinois legislators who were directly involved in wooing the company to lure them across the river. In fact, one legislator quoted in your article said Illinois’ efforts to win the project were “enormous.” After the fact, it’s not surprising that the Illinois development agency would back track in an effort to save face on an opportunity lost.
The truth is, for political reasons, a double-standard is being applied to the Iowa Fertilizer Co., whose parent organization is Egypt-based Orascom Construction Industries. IEDA, on the other hand, treats all applicants equally and fairly, vets projects with a consistent procedure, and determines ROI quantitatively.
The last time I checked, $1.4 billion into Iowa’s economy plus 165 permanent jobs, 3,500 construction-related jobs and countless spin-off jobs, plus hundreds of millions in annual savings for Iowa farmers, plus millions in additional tax revenue (above and beyond the incentives provided) into the state coffers a good deal for Iowa.
Debi Durham is the director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.