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Iowa Army Ammo Plant Deemed "Ready for Development"

Jason Parrott
The added security at the IAAAP could be a selling point to try to encourage businesses to develop 152 acres of land.

The sun beat down on the bright, white tent set up in front of the administrative building for the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant (IAAAP) in Middletown Tuesday afternoon. The soaring temperatures did not stop roughly 40 people from showing up to watch Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announce the 12th “Iowa Certified Site.”

“Job creation has been a top priority as governor of this state and I am proud of the progress we have made,” said Branstad. “This is another good development here in Des Moines County.”

The “Iowa Certified Site” is a 152-acre parcel within the IAAAP grounds known as the Commerce Center of Southeast Iowa.

The certification program began in 2012. Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said this tells prospective employers the property is ready for development.

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
The entire plant is protected by a large chain-link fence and multiple security check-points

“What you have done in your certification is one, you control the land,” said Durham. “You have the price set so that’s not going to move, it’s not a moving target. You’ve done a Phase I environmental [review and] you’ve done [an] archeological [review]. You’ve basically looked at the terrain and said there is not going to be any surprises when you start building your footings.”

Durham said now that the certification process is complete, the task of landing jobs begins.

“Large-scale projects can be risky for companies to undertake, so it is a critical advantage when an Iowa site can mitigate those risks on the front end,” said Durham. “Certification makes Iowa more competitive for job creation projects and it is really that simple.”

As part of the cerfitication program, Durham’s office will fund print and digital advertisements, include the southeast Iowa site in site selection magazines, and talk up the location to potential employers.

“If the interest we have seen as a result of the first 11 certified sites we announced last year are any indication, then you all will be very busy answering the phones,” said Durham, who believes the added security at the IAAAP could benefit software developers, information technology firms, or gun manufacturers.

There is already one employer on the site as American Ordinance has been manufacturing ammunition and weapons on the site for nearly 20 years.

President John McGuiness said the announcement marks a truly great day for the IAAAP and his company because of the benefits that will come with allowing commercial enterprises to share the location.

“It brings jobs within the region,” said McGuiness. “It also reduces our costs of operations here, so it’s a win/win for everybody. It creates jobs [and] reduces costs for the ammunition that goes to the warfront, so this is truly a big deal for us.”

Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR
Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) speaks during the certification announcement.

The state’s goal is to have a certified site in each county.  Branstad said to compete in the global market, Iowa needs to set itself apart, which he believes the site certification program does.

“Competition for job creation projects is steep,” said Branstad. “So it’s essential that Iowa looks at every possible advantage and this is a significant advantage. That is what today’s announcement is all about… putting Iowa sites on that type of list… so congratulations to all of you who helped put this together.”

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.