Representatives of Iowa Fertilizer Company joined local and state leaders on Nov. 19, 2013 to break ground on a new production facility in Lee County. Nearly 4 1/2 years later, IFC celebrated the start of fertilizer production at the plant near Wever.
The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the $3 billion plant Wednesday afternoon. More than 100 people were in attendance, including members of the Lee and Des Moines County Boards, the Keokuk City Council, and the mayors of Fort Madison and Keokuk.
The event featured a series of prepared speeches from dignitaries including Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Nassef Sawiris, CEO of OCI NV, the parent company of IFC.
Branstad said the project brought much needed construction jobs to Lee County.
"In Iowa, we have created a roadmap that attracts new businesses and supports key industries that drive long-term economic growth," said Branstad.
"At the outset of the Iowa Fertilizer project, the unemployment rate in Lee County was the highest in the state at 8.0%. That is why my administration fought so hard to encourage the company to locate its new fertilizer plant in this great community. Today, the county's unemployment rate is down nearly three points to 5.3%, providing a positive and meaningful impact on working families in the area."
IFC said in a statement that at the peak of construction, the company employed more than 3,500 workers. Full-time staff at the plant is expected to exceed 200 people now that production is underway.
IFC said its annual maintenance budget will be $25 million and its annual payroll will be $25 million.
Sawiris said the plant is expected to produce roughly two million metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer product each year.
"The start of production at [IFC] plant in Wever is a transformative moment for the agricultural industry," said Sawiris.
"As one of the most innovative and efficient manufacturing plants in the nation, Iowa Fertilizer is leading the way in providing American farmers a stable, high-quality, and domestic source of nitrogen fertilizer products. Given its location among the highest nitrogen-consuming acres globally, on the border between Iowa and Illinois, the number one and two corn producing states in the nation, the site houses not only a premier production facility, but also an industry leading distribution center."
The start of production has been a long-time coming. At the time of the ground-breaking, it was anticipated the plant would be up and running by the summer of 2015. Along the way, though, there was a change in the general contractor, construction delays, and an expansion of the plant, leading to the start of production in the spring of 2017.
IFC President Larry Holley said the new plant is worth the wait.
“This has been a true collaboration that has helped spur meaningful growth and economic development throughout our southeast Iowa community," said Holley.
The project received more than $100 million in local and state tax incentives at a time when cuts are being made throughout state government to clear a nine-figure budget shortfall.
Branstad, Reynolds, and other state leaders were not made available following the event to answer questions from journalists.