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WATERLOO -- The Cedar Valley TechWorks project in downtown Waterloo now has a lease for its first tenant.

The Iowa Board of Regents this week approved a five-year lease agreement with TechWorks to have the University of Northern Iowa's National Ag-based Lubricants program, or NABL, locate in the building.

NABL, which has researched and developed various soy- and other bio-based lubricants for a variety of industries, would occupy the third floor of "Tech 1" of the TechWorks site. It is the former "R" building of John Deere's Westfield Avenue site.

Deere donated a major portion of its Westfield site and cash almost a year ago for development of TechWorks, a proposed bio-based agri-industiral product research, development and exhibition center.

It's anticipated NABL, following substantial renovations, could move into the space by summer's end, said TechWorks general manger Cary Darrah and Wes James, assistant director of NABL, now located in Waverly.

"We've worked on this for several years and we're excited to see it coming together," James said.

The NABL lease, hopefully, is the first of many more to come, Darrah said.

"I think other prospects, other businesses that may have been interested had been kind of waiting to see what our future tenant might be, our anchor," Darrah said. "This really validates and underscores this project is going to happen and continue to unfold. That's the good part."

NABL will be making significant improvements to its 25,000 square feet of leased space, and will publicly let contract bids for that work, Darrah and James said.

NABL will pay a lease of $2.75 per square foot for the first three years, Darrah said. That's below market rates, but TechWorks took into consideration that NABL's potential presence there leveraged substantial government grants for the preparing the site. Future tenants will be charged market rates, under grant requirements.

The regents' lease action was well timed, Darrah said, since some TechWorks officials will be making presentations on the project to the economic growth committees of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday. State Sens. Bill Dotzler and Jeff Danielson, both D-Waterloo, sit on the Senate committee and State Rep Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, serves on the House panel.

On Feb. 16, 2007, Deere donated more than $17.4 million in buildings, land, technical assistance and financial resources to a nonprofit group, Cedar Valley TechWorks Inc., for the development of the project. The estimated $50 million bio-based agri-industrial product development and exposition marketplace will be developed over several years on about 40 acres formerly part of Deere's Westfield Avenue site.

Planning has gone on the past four years, concurrent with Deere's redevelopment of its Westfield site, now nearing completion. The project received a $1.6 million federal grant in June and another $170,000 in July.

Contact Pat Kinney at Pat.Kinney@wcfcourier.com or (319) 291-1484.

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