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LCEDG Working to Identify "Shovel-Ready" Sites

Iowa Economic Development Authority
Iowa's current certified sites are clustered around communities such as Des Moines and Cedar Rapids

The Lee County Economic Development Group is trying to identify the county's top locations for large-scale economic development projects. The goal is for a "shovel-ready" location or two to possibly be included in the state's Certified Sites program.

CEO Joe Steil said LCEDG is working with engineering firms, industrial partners, and professional site selectors.

“We are looking Lee County-wide.  Based upon the areas we have identified already, it is very diverse across Lee County,” said Steil. “It’s just establishing that pecking order based on the strengths of a site.”

Steil said three potential certified sites have already been identified with more possible as the search continues. He says once all of the possible locations are determined, they will be ranked based on criteria such as cost to certify and appeal to businesses.

“We want to make sure we are evaluating and spending our money wisely,” said Steil. “We have to make a decision whether or not we want to proceed with those and make sure we do our due diligence properly so that we don’t get halfway through this and then hit a roadblock and then that money was spent for naught. So we want to make sure we thoroughly flush out any issue with these sites.”

Steil said a decision will be made following the vetting process as to whether Lee County should seek inclusion in Iowa’s Certified Sites program. He said the process can take several years to complete and cost a couple hundred thousand dollars.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority unveiled the program about five years ago.

“Companies looking to build new facilities are searching for sites that are suitable for development and relatively risk-free,” said the IEDA on its website. “Certified sites fill the demand for project-ready industrial sites, making the decision to locate in Iowa easy.”

There are currently 16 certified sites in Iowa, including a 152-acre tract within the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Middletown. That is the lone site in southeast Iowa.

The sites must meet specific requirements including size, access to utilities and transportation, and completed archeological and environmental studies.

The IEDA promotes the state’s certified sites on its website and through site selection publications.

“We are really, really working hard to build our relationship with the state of Iowa and all our other partners who could be the feeders of opportunities to us,” said Steil.

LCEDG did consider seeking certification for a large piece of ground in northern Lee County several years ago but the project did not gain the financial support of the county board.

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