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City seeks industrial park for construction of wind-energy parts

BY AMANDA MCCLURE | FEBRUARY 20, 2009 7:34 AM

Iowa City could become, perhaps soon, the home of the nation’s first wind-energy campus after the construction of an industrial park situated at a transportation hub.

Officials hope the industrial area will allow international companies to build parts for wind-energy production and transport them easily around the country.

“This is a great investment for us, given the movement in the industry and where President Obama stands on wind energy,” City Manager Michael Lombardo said. “We’re in a good place to capitalize on this niche.”

Iowa City is at a competitive advantage over other areas of the country because of the state’s abundance of wind farms, Lombardo said. Iowa is ranked second in wind production, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

“We see wind farms in northwest Iowa, and transporting these turbines is a key expense to companies,” Mayor Regenia Bailey said. “Iowa City is lacking in industrial land for development, and this is our chance to grow.”

The recently purchased land lies at a crossroads between a railroad line and a highway — on 420th Street near Highway 6 — making it ideal for transporting wind-energy components constructed in the park.

Though no companies have officially signed on to the park, Bailey said, the city has garnered a lot of interest from organizations looking to expand their wind-energy production.

Wendy Ford, an economic-development coordinator for Iowa City, said the economic recession has prevented some companies from coming to the park, but she isn’t worried about filling the available space.

“The majority want to be the first to move into this new market,” she said. “Companies that manufacture these parts in places such as California or Spain want to be closer to where the windmills are actually located.”

Lombardo had the idea for the park six months ago when the land came on the market. Construction on the 173-acres will begin this spring and will be completed as soon as the summer of 2010.
To pay for a portion of the estimated $6 million project, the city has applied for a Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy grant from the state. Given the economic prospects of the project, officials are hopeful they will receive $1.9 million.

“We just don’t have these types of sites in Iowa City, and it’s causing a lot of industrial development to move elsewhere,” Lombardo said.

The project would bring in more high-paying jobs to Iowa City, he said, as well as generate $800,000 in industrial property taxes.

“This is an exciting project for the city because it gives us yet another area to start marketing,” he said. “It provides a lot of amenities that we want to focus on for Iowa City.”


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