WALCOTT -- A proposed $1.3 billion nitrogren fertilizer plant on 318 acres of land near Walcott would bring 165 full-time, good-paying jobs along with an estimated 2,500 construction jobs over a three-year period.|
Yet, during a public informational Thursday at American Legion Post 548 in Walcott, some area neighbors said they didn't want the plant, which could be in operation by 2015 and be named Iowa Fertilizer Company (IFCo). The company would be a subsidiary of Egypt-based Orascom Industries (OCI).
According to Gov. Terry Brandstad's office, IFCo's wages would average $26 per hour. Of the estimated 2,500 jobs generated in the construction phase, incomes would average more than $50,000 a year.
The proposed plant site is one of several being considered by Orascom, which has other potential sites in Iowa's Lee County, a site near Pekin, Ill., and another in Beaumont, Texas, according to The Associated Press.
The plant's potential for economic growth in the area has received an endorsement from the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Scott County Farm Bureau. Bill Martin, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber, said, "we think it would be a huge economic impact on the region."
Thursday's meeting had no speakers, which many visitors thought they would hear. There were people representing Orascom subsidiaries along with members from the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, the Scott County Farm Bureau, and the state of Iowa.
Rob Ewoldt, president of the Scott County Farm Bureau, said farmers in eastern Iowa would benefit greatly from the plant.
"We wouldn't have to worry so much about a shortage in the fall, because we would have the supply right here," Mr. Ewoldt said. "Western Illinois is going to benefit if this gets passed."
But, Mr. Ewoldt admits, not everyone is in agreement.
The land would have to be rezoned from agricultural preservation to heavy industrial, which has some people upset because of the high quality of the land.
"There's people that have dug in their heels on both sides," he said. "I think our membership would agree that it would benefit us. The big discussion is the location and the fact that it's some of the top ground (prime farmland).
"That's where the big hang up is."
Gene Wuestenberg, a rural Walcott farmer with land that would be next to the plant, was upset because Orascom, "picked the best gosh-darned soil in Scott County to build on."
Mr. Wuestenberg also had questions about the company itself and its origins.
"I don't think Egypt has settled down," Mr. Wuestenberg said. "I don't know what the heck is going on."
Mr. Martin said the company, through its consultants, Muscatine-based Stanley Consultants, Inc., has optioned the property.
"They (OCI) have an option to buy it at a specified price if zoning is approved," Mr. Martin said.
He conceded there is a concern about the quality of the land being used, but added, "We calculated 318 acres is 13 one-hundreths of 1 percent of acreage in cropland in Scott County."
Tom Sunderland, chairman of the Scott County Board of Supervisors, said the board still is gathering information.
"We've been talking the last four or five years now about having economic problems," Mr. Sunderland said. "The solution to economic problems are jobs, jobs, jobs."
Mr. Sunderland said it would also provide tax dollars, saying IFCo would be the second-largest taxing body in Scott County next to MidAmerican Energy.
"But still, it's significant change, and people don't handle change very well," Mr. Sunderland said. "There are many hoops to jump through. There are concerns about air pollution, concerns about noise, concerns about water."
Mr. Sunderland said the new plant is estimated to save Iowa farmers more than $700 million a year. Iowa has more than 92,400 farms and more than 24 million acres of land cultivated every year, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Iowa has the highest use of nitrogen fertilizer in the nation. Offshore nitrogen fertilizer accounts for more than half of all nitrogen fertilizer used in the U.S., which makes local farmers dependent on overseas suppliers and vulnerable to price spikes associated with nitrogen fertilizer produced offshore, the department said.
"It would be a huge savings for the farm community," Mr. Sunderland said.
Tim Huey, Scott County's director of planning and development, said it would be the largest project ever presented to Scott County in his, or anybody else's, memory.
Tina Hoffman, spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said Lee County was offered incentives including a $1.6 million forgivable loan and $31.5 million in tax benefits to complete the project.
But OSI did not make a decision, thus leaving the Scott County site as a possibility. If Scott County is selected, OSI would be required to submit a new application to the IEDA board for tax incentive considerations, she said.
A public hearing on a rezoning request for the project is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Scott County Building, 600 W. 4th St.
Direct Impact of fertilizer facility
Proposed location: A 318-acre site between Walcott and Davenport on old U.S. 6 or 200th Street.
Jobs: 165 direct employees; 2,500 construction workers to build the plant
Steps needed: On Tuesday, July 17: Scott County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. at the Scott County Administrative Building.
On Thursday, Aug. 2: the Scott County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m.
On Thursday, Aug. 16: Scott County Board of Supervisors could vote on whatever planning and zoning committee's recommendation is at its 5:30 p.m. meeting.
On Aug. 22: Zoning Board of Adjustiment will hold a public hearing. A final decision is expected at the meeting.
Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) - based in Cairo, Egypt. According to its website, employs more than 72,000 people worldwide in 35 countries.
OCI provides engineering procurement and construction services on large, complex and demanding industrial, commercial, water/sewage, transportation, telecommunications, maritime, tourism and railway projects for private and public customers principally in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.
OCI's construction group is active in more than 100 projects in more than 20 countries. The company has investments in natural gas industires, such as fertilizer producers and in infrastructure concessions.
Muscatine-based Stanley Consultants Inc., was hired by Orascom, to look at different sites. Stanley vice president and corporate counsel Henry Marquard, said Stanley, one of the world's largest engineering architecture firms, has worked with Orascom on a number of projects around the world.
OCI History - Founded in 1950 in Upper Egypt. The founder, Onsi Sawiris built the business into one of Egypt's largest general contractors.
1971 - The business was nationalised and later became known as the El Nasr Civil Works Company.
1976 - Eng Sawiris returned to Egypt from Libya and founded Orascom as a general contracting and trading company.
1990 - Eng Sawiris had established Orascom as a leading private sector contractor.
1995 - In the mid 1990s, Eng Sawiris transferred management control to his son, Nassef Sawiris.
1999 - Nassef Sawiris oversaw the initial public offering of shares int eh company on teh Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchange. Orascom's first cement subsidiary, the Egyptian Cement Company started operations.
2003 - The Algerian Cement Company commenced operations.
2004 - Orascom announced investments in Pakistan Cement Company, along with a cement factory in Iraq and the BESIX Group (Belgium). The BESIX Group was awarde dthe contract to build the world's tallest building the Burj Khalifa.
2005 - Orascom announced investments in Nigeria and Spain.
2007 - Orascom announced investments in Al Safwa Cement Company (Saudi Arabia), Samba SPA (largest aggregates supplier in Algeria), Sorfert Algeria (fertiliser), Syrian Cement Company, Mafikeng Cement Company (South Africa).
2010 - Orascom announced a 50/50 joint venture with Morgan Stanley to invest in infrastructure assets in the MIddle East and Africa.
2011 - Orascom acquired 100 percent of Pandora Methanol LLC, which was renamed OCI Beaumont.
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