Iowa Fertilizer Company's new production plant in northern Lee County remains a hub of activity with roughly 2,400 hundred workers on-site, but that activity revolves around construction, not production. The head of the company said the focus of the activity should change in a matter of months.
“We are in a very good place now as we enter the home stretch to when we begin production,” said President Larry Holley. “Our confidence is running pretty high right now and things are looking well as we look at the schedule for the end of the year.”
Holley said production of ammonia should get underway in late Sept./early Oct. He said additional products such as urea, urea ammonium nitrate, and diesel exhaust fluid should begin production a couple months later.
Holley said that’s good news for local farmers, local businesses, and southeast Iowa as a whole. But he acknowledged the timeline is about one year behind the original timeline proposed by the company.
“Any delay is disappointing,” said Holley. “In a project of this size and of this complexity, you need to be able to react to these things and plan for that reaction.
"I think that has been done here and we have been able to keep our feet under ourselves as those discouragements have come along. So in something this large and complex, you are not going to have everything fall together perfectly.”
Iowa Fertilizer Company is currently facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit from one of its contractors over the payment of wages. In federal court filings, IFC openly questioned the quality of the work.
Holley said the current contractors on site are no longer addressing problems with the previous work done by different contractors. He said they have moved on to the process of “pre-commissioning” the site.
“That’s where you are doing clean-outs of piping and those kinds of things with steam blows and water washes and that sort of thing,” said Holley. “We’ll move from that right into our operators stepping in and starting the commissioning phase, leading right up to production.”
The plant is expected to produce about two-million metric tons of fertilizer each year. Holley said the plant is about 95% complete.
“Where we have made the most progress, probably over the last couple of months, is integrating our operators and workforce, our maintenance people, with the contractors so that we are all on the same page and we have that one team atmosphere when we sit in meetings together now,” said Holley. “So that’s been a huge improvement and it’s showing the results as we continue to move forward.”
Holley made his comments following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at the intersection of 180th Street and 360th Avenue, at the northeast corner of the plant. Political, business, government, and union leaders turned out for the event.
“Iowa Fertilizer Company is a proud part of the Lee County and Southeast Iowa community,” said Holley. “We are incredibly happy to stand with our local and state partners to celebrate this important milestone in creating what will be one of the most innovative fertilizer manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Today’s event is a clear demonstration of the tremendous progress being made at our facility here in Wever.”
The nearly $10 million project to build, reconstruct and expand roadways, including 180th Street, 360th Avenue and County Road J50, was funded through a state grant and a local match, which was covered by IFC.
“The completion of J50 and 360th Avenue was brought about through a strong collaboration between the company, county, state and economic development leaders throughout our community,” said Ron Fedler, who chairs the Lee County Board of Supervisors. “This close partnership is built on smart investments that will create meaningful economic growth and job development in the region.”