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BOARD ACTION: Economic Development Board approves awards

For more information contact:

Tina Hoffman
Iowa Economic Development Authority
Phone: 515.725.3150, mobile 515.783.8225
Economic Development Board approves awards to support almost $52 million in capital investments in Iowa, approves funding for five Reinvestment Districts and makes first awards through the Strategic Infrastructure

June 19, 2015 (DES MOINES, IA) –  The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board today awarded direct financial assistance and tax benefits to six companies for job creation and expansion projects. Today's awards will assist in the creation of 304 jobs, retention of 137 jobs and will result in almost $52 million in new capital investment for the state. The board also approved innovation funding for five startups and made the inaugural awards through the Strategic Infrastructure Fund (SIF).

Additionally, the board made provisional funding decisions for five Reinvestment District applicants. The Coralville, Davenport, Grinnell, Mason City and Sioux City projects will have until February 29, 2016 to fulfill all program requirements before the board will make its final funding decisions for the districts.

Le Mars company plans warehouse expansion
The board approved tax benefits for BoDeans Cone Company through the High Quality Jobs program (HQJP).  The company has been producing ice cream cones in Le Mars since 2001.  The proposed project consists of a warehouse expansion.  This $4.5 million capital investment is expected to create two jobs incented at a qualifying wage of $19.87 an hour.

Pella Corporation receives assistance for expanding product line
Headquartered in Pella, Pella Corporation is a family-owned company that is a leader in designing, testing, manufacturing and installing quality windows and doors for new construction, remodeling and replacement applications for home and commercial markets. 

This project builds upon the Insynctive branded product line that was introduced in January 2015 with added features such as motorized wood blinds.  The project will require additional equipment and numerous equipment modifications to allow for manufacturing and finishing; all to occur within the existing building footprint. The board awarded Pella Corporation $152,000 in direct financial assistance as well as tax benefits through HQJP for this $3.4 million capital investment.  The project is expected to create 38 incented jobs at a qualifying hourly wage of $18.62. 

Quality Refrigerated Services in Spencer to build new storage facility
Quality Refrigerated Services began serving customers in Spencer in 1989. The company provides its clients with packaging, freezing and standard cold storage services. The proposed project would include the construction of a 30,000 square-foot building, which will contain coolers, freezers and a loading dock. The expansion will allow for better utilization of existing food processing space and provide additional storage space needed by local and regional clients. The company was awarded tax benefits through HQJP for this project. The $4.4 million capital investment is expected to retain seven jobs and create 14 jobs, of which two are incented at a qualifying wage of $18.49 an hour.

Cedar Rapids’ food manufacturer to make $10 million capital investment
ConAgra Foods manufactures, distributes and markets private-brand food products.  Its products include ready-to-eat and hot cereals and nutritional cereal bars.  The company’s Cedar Rapids plant currently produces private brand cereal (oatmeal) products.  ConAgra Foods’ proposed project is comprised of a packaging system upgrade that includes the purchase and installation of new vertical pouching machines and top-load cartoning. The board awarded the company tax benefits via HQJP for this $10 million capital investment.  The project is expected to retain 130 jobs, 33 of which are incented at a qualifying wage of $23.45 an hour. 

United Fire Group plans renovation of existing facility and construction of new building
The United Fire Group (UFG), headquartered in Cedar Rapids, was founded in 1946.  The insurance carrier has grown into a super-regional insurance company that sells commercial and personal insurance and bonds through more than 1,200 independent agencies and life insurance through more than 900 independent life agencies. UFG is a publicly traded company with offices in several states.  UFG is planning to renovate its existing 10-story American Building and construct a new 10-story adjoining building. The board awarded UFG tax benefits through HQJP. The $28.4 million capital investment will accommodate UFG’s employee growth over the past two years as well as an additional 50 jobs, of which 46 are incented at a qualifying hourly wage of $23.45.

Ventech Solutions set to create 200 jobs in Urbandale
Ventech Solutions, Inc. is a systems integration and consulting services firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.  Ventech specializes in managing full life cycle deployment of software systems and solutions. The company offers enterprise business solutions to federal, state and local government agencies and plans to lease office space in Urbandale for help desk support and a large application development team.  The company was awarded $500,000 in direct financial assistance via HQJP.  The proposed project is set to create 200 jobs, of which 75 are incented at a qualifying wage of $25.52 an hour. 

Awards made to five start-ups
The Demonstration Fund provides financial and technical assistance to encourage high-technology prototype and concept development activities that have a clear potential to lead to commercially viable products or services within a reasonable period of time.

The fund provides financial assistance to encourage commercialization activities by small and medium-sized Iowa companies in the advanced manufacturing, biosciences and information technology industries. The primary purpose of the fund is to help businesses with a high-growth potential reach a position where they are able to attract later-stage, private-sector funding. 

The Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund promotes the formation and growth of businesses that engage in the transfer of technology into competitive, profitable companies that create high-paying jobs. The funds are designed to support commercializing research, launching new start-ups and accelerating private investment and industrial expansion efforts that result in significant capital investment.

The Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) Fund provides financial assistance to innovative businesses that are pursuing proof of commercial relevance and marketability of a technology.  The fund is designed to assist businesses with new technologies that have completed the proof of concept stage and are ready to be subjected to the rigors of the proof of commercial relevance stage that includes defining the market for the product and perfecting the product to meet market needs.

Award recommendations for these funds are made by the Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC) to the IEDA Board for approval.

Higher Learning Technologies Inc. (HLT) started in Coralville in 2012 with a single software product for dental students studying for their licensure exams. Today, their products include mobile apps for test prep and education and are currently sold through the Apple and Google app stores for smart phones and tablets. The board approved a $300,000 loan through the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund for hiring key personnel and market-planning and entry activities. 

PetMeasure was formed in September 2014 and has established offices at the Iowa State University Research Park in Ames.  The company addresses a companion animal need to facilitate real-time animal health data measurements via automated communication between veterinarians and their clients, supporting improved tools for veterinary practices and their canine patients. The company’s initial product includes an innovative, patented, measurement technology collar for dogs, and a mobile app for vet/client/patient communication enabling veterinarian access and analysis of important data, supporting improved animal health and well-being as well as veterinarian-to-client communication. The board awarded PetMeasure a $25,000 grant through the POCR Fund for prototype testing and validation activities.

Cedar Rapids-based ProduceRun has developed a technology that allows farmers to upload their farm goods onto their website with photos and pricing, thereby providing a new and better way for consumers and workplaces to group-buy high quality farm goods directly from small- scale farmers.  The company was awarded a $25,000 grant from the POCR Fund for farmer outreach, marketing and website maintenance and development.

Re-APP, Inc. (dba Sift) was started in Cedar Rapids in January 2014 by Blake Rupe as a company that creates mobile apps to promote sustainability.  After gaining preliminary traction from users as well as from the recycling industry from the company’s first app, Re-APP, Blake built a team and joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator. In the fall of 2014, the team began building Re-APP’s second product, Sift.  Sift enables users to measure, catalog and track all sustainability actions, including recycling and many more.  The company received a $25,000 grant via the POCR Fund to complete a corporate sustainability pilot program.

VSI Aerospace, Inc. was founded in 2007 in Ames for the purpose of aerospace research services and commercialization of software related to aerospace systems modeling, analysis, visualization and synthesis.  The company’s key intellectual property is a suite of software that can be used for aerospace systems modeling, performance evaluation and health monitoring. NASA, NAVY and NSF grants of more than $3 million have been received by VSI Aerospace to date for developing related state-of-the-art technologies.  The company received $100,000 loan from the Demonstration Fund for DAVinCI Flight, an engineering-centric, educational gaming software.  This software has been developed by the company to address a lack of effective tools for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts to students in middle school through undergraduate levels. 

Five Reinvestment District Projects receive provisional funding approvals
The Iowa Reinvestment District Program is designed to assist communities in developing transformative projects that will improve the quality of life, create and enhance unique opportunities and substantially benefit the community, region and state. The program provides for up to $100 million in new state hotel/motel and sales tax revenues to be “reinvested” within approved districts. Districts cannot exceed 25 acres in size, and must be in an Enterprise Zone or Urban Renewal Area.

Iowa Reinvestment District plans must include tax revenues generated by “new retail establishments” and “new lessors”.  New retail establishments cannot exceed 50 percent of the total proposed capital investment. At least one of the new proposed projects within the district must reach a total capital investment of $10 million. And, the total amount of new tax revenues to be remitted to the municipality cannot exceed 35 percent of the total cost of all proposed projects in the district plan.

With $41.5 million in program funding remaining after last year’s awards, IEDA accepted applications from communities in March 2015. Five of the eight applicants received a score in excess of 70 points (out of 100) and presented their projects to the Due Diligence committee in May. The IEDA board today, upon the recommendation of the Due Diligence committee, decided on provisional funding for the projects in the communities of Coralville, Davenport, Grinnell, Mason City and Sioux City. 

The provisional funding decisions are designed to provide practical feedback for municipalities interested in creating a reinvestment district, but are not final or binding. Following the provisional approval, final application materials fully meeting all of the program’s requirements are due prior to March 1, 2016. The board’s final funding decision may be different from the provisional funding decision based on the final application.

The City of Coralville was provisionally approved for $9,532,000 for the Iowa River Landing Reinvestment District. The proposed plan includes a 180-acre parcel at the intersections of the Iowa River, Interstate 80 and First Avenue in Coralville. The project has a total capital investment of $185 million and includes the addition of a 7000-seat arena, fitness/sports performance center and new, mixed-use, commercial- and residential condominium structures; a transportation facility that will connect Iowa River Landing to downtown Iowa City; and additional hotel capacity.

The City of Davenport was provisionally approved for $10,750,000 for the River 80 Reinvestment District. The 25-acre Reinvestment District will include 350 hotel rooms, 123,500 square feet of new retail and restaurants and 138,000 square feet of mixed-use space at the interchange of Interstates 80 and 74 in Davenport. The Reinvestment District will also include sports tourism attractions, including an indoor/outdoor sports tournament center with space for up to eight baseball/softball fields and an indoor/outdoor continuous wave aquatic entertainment center. 

The City of Grinnell was provisionally approved for $6,100,000 for its Grinnell Historic Downtown and Campus Confluence Reinvestment District. The project includes five components. The first is redevelopment of the Grinnell Community Center as a boutique hotel and event center with services including a salon and spa. The second will include enhancement of Central Park and the third is the final phase of the reconstruction of the public infrastructure in the downtown. Finally, the project includes the development of a mixed use area at the confluence of Grinnell's Historic Downtown and the Grinnell College Campus as well as improvements to Grinnell College Campus, including a new admissions and welcome center, and more.

The City of Mason City was provisionally approved for $7,100,000 for the Mason City Downtown Reinvestment District. This District includes five proposed projects, including the Central Park Hotel, branded as a Courtyard by Marriott, overlooking the City’s historic central square and consisting of 96 rooms; a 225-250 space Downtown Parking Garage owned and operated by the City; a three-story mixed use retail/residential building; an Indoor-Outdoor Performing Arts Pavilion, incorporated into Federal Plaza and highlighting the entrance to Southbridge Mall; and a 2,400-seat indoor multi-purpose arena located within Southbridge Mall.

The City of Sioux City was provisionally approved for $8,030,600 for its Reinvestment District. The project’s components include a mix of uses and commercial/cultural activities that will be located close together to provide people with new options for places to live, work, shop, visit, and participate in cultural activities. The components include a Convention Center Hotel; private redevelopment of three multi-story, obsolete warehouse and industrial buildings into “The V Loft District;” and the Ag Expo & Learning Center site which will feature the new construction of an events/arena facility to house agricultural expositions and equestrian events. 

Full application materials for these three projects will be available within 10 days for public viewing at CommunityDevelopment/ReinvestmentDistrict

Two Awards made through Strategic Infrastructure Fund
In other action, the board approved the inaugural awards through the Strategic Infrastructure Fund program. The purpose of the strategic infrastructure program is to assist projects that develop commonly utilized assets that provide an advantage to one or more private sector entities or that create necessary physical infrastructure in the state, and such projects are not adequately provided by the public or private sectors.

The projects are vetted by the Iowa Innovation Council (IIC) to make recommendations to the IEDA Board. The Board, after considering the recommendations made by the IIC, determine which projects to fund and the amount of funding to be awarded to each project.

The IEDA received two applications that were vetted by the Council and approved today by the board. The University of Northern Iowa Metal Casting Center/TechWorks project was awarded $2,715,500 through the program.  The Iowa State University – CIRAS project was awarded $100,000. 


Download a spreadsheet of today's awards: 

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200 East Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
Phone: 1.515.348.6200
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