WATERLOO — Instrumental in the filling out of the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus is its designation as an Iowa Reinvestment District in February 2015.

The entire project sputtered for a time but has gained new momentum through its state reinvestment district designation.

“Part of why it did stall for so long is because the federal historic tax credits went away because the National Park Service could not see the historic significance of this building,” TechWorks manager Cary Darrah said — even though the campus is a big part of Deere’s and Waterloo’s industrial history if not the nation.

“It’s hard to imagine why a John Deere original site would not have historic integrity,” Darrah said.

“When those (federal) historic tax credits went away, we had to think of a funding mechanism for that gap. That was when the Legislature approved that Iowa Reinvestment District tool,” Darrah said. The Waterloo district was created concurrent with a convention center project in downtown Des Moines.

Iowa Economic Development Authority director Debi Durham realized the TechWorks campus also qualified for the designation, Darrah said. TechWorks was among the first three applications for reinvestment district designation, and among the first approved.

Developer Rodney Blackwell laughs about it now, but he was almost oblivious to the reinvestment district possibility when local TechWorks and GCVA officials presented it to him.

“I’m in my office ramping up —this thing takes a lot of staff — and Steve (Dust) calls me and says ‘Hey, would you help support this?’ I said, ‘Steve, I’m so busy I can’t take time to do something else, but it sounds like a great thing.’

“I really support it now!” Blackwell said. “It was kind of funny how it worked out. It sounds like a great tool to incentivize some of these communities.”

Darrah said a portion of sales and room taxes generated in the district that would normally go to the state is reinvested into the project. The city retains its portion. “It’s going to be great for their future revenue” Darrah said.

It will contribute to development of light industrial and commercial space on outlying lots on the campus.

The reinvestment district would fund:

$8 million for a business class hotel, corporate training and classrooms.

$3 million for Tech I Light Manufacturing/Business Incubator/Makerspace.

$1 million for Cedar River Marina infrastructure.

It would leverage $69.1 million in new capital investment in the TechWorks campus, major elements of which do or will include:

A business class hotel and restaurant with more than 156 rooms with a mix of in-house dining options.

The Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Center, a next-generation industrial facility for introducing and showcasing product and process design.

John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, now open, telling the story of the history of innovation of tractors and engines in the Cedar Valley at the production site of the first John Deere tractors.

High-quality corporate training space located near the John Deere’s Drivetrain Operations facility.

Specialty retail and dining options, ranging from fast casual to high-end cuisine.

Cedar River Marina with boat sales, fuel sales, boat slips, pontoon rental and riverfront dining.

Here are projected economic impacts of the investment district:

Gross taxable sales of nearly $21 million.

275,000 annual visitors expected.

$2.9 million in annual food, retail and other sales generated on site or elsewhere in the region.

Supports up to 562 new permanent jobs in the state.

$35.1 million increase in state’s gross area product.


News Editor

News Editor at the Courier

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