PRINCETON -- With the Mississippi River valley and acres of rolling Scott County farmland as a backdrop, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the certification of the Anderson 400 as a green business park.
Nearly 150 people gathered on the windy hillside to celebrate the long-awaited designation, which was formally presented to the Anderson family by Reynolds and Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham. The IEDA certification tells developers that a site is "shovel-ready" and ensures its future development will be adhere to environmentally friendly principles.
The Anderson 400, owned by Paul and Marijo Anderson and the Anderson Trust, became the second site in Iowa to earn the green park certification and the first privately-owned property. The first was the Woodward Eco Business Park in Woodward.
"We are so excited for what the green business park will do to the local economy, to the enrollment of our schools and to the tax base of our awesome state of Iowa," said Marijo Anderson, who has been the project manager, working in collaboration with the Quad-City architecture engineering firm of Shive-Hattery.
She said the certification "allowed us to see our vision through, and we're not done yet."
With the designation in hand, she said "now the heavy lifting will begin to market the site."
Nearly 285 of the park's more than 400 acres now are available for a business, such as a corporate headquarters, to build outside Princeton. The remainder of the site will maintain the natural rolling hills, wetlands and woodlands -- features that might have been considered obstacles.
Iowa's certified site program began in 2012 when the state partnered with site selection firm McCallum Sweeney Consulting (now Quest Site Solutions) to develop a program to help address the state's lack of project-ready industrial sites. To date, a total of 26 sites have been certified and six are in progress. The green park certification was introduced three years later.
"Today, we not only celebrate the Anderson family commitment to supporting Iowa' economic growth, but also their belief in preserving our beautiful landscape," Reynolds said. "This green site is another great example of how our state is leading on issues, like conservation, which matter to our residents and the future workforce who will be based here."
Durham, who worked closely with Marijo Anderson over the three-year process, said what she quickly learned is that Anderson is a "woman with a vision and you are a woman to be reckoned with. When you set your mind to something, you make it happen."
The ceremony had all the pomp and circumstance -- Iowa style -- worthy of an achievement years in the making. Guests were transported to the ceremony site by a pair of wagons pulled by John Deere tractors - one driven by Scott County Board Chairman Tony Knobbe. North Scott High School's Future Farmers of America chapter and North Scott Singers participated leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner. They also were treated to cookies, shaped like the state of Iowa, with one word in frosting -- Certified.
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Marijo Anderson recounted the rigorous certification process including the political steps and governmental approvals beginning at the Scott County Board to first rezone 350 acres from Ag Preservation to Ag General.
She said there were 85 elements involved in the certification process. They ranged from archaeological and historical studies to a wetlands inventory, soil surveys, endangered species reports, other environmental studies, land covenants and more.
In a certified green business park, the end users must adhere to this criteria: due diligence requirements; preservation of natural features on the site; and adoption of covenants that recognize the importance of environmentally sensitive design.
"This category is designed for companies committed to reducing the environmental impact of their development activity," Durham said.
With the certification complete, the state also will join in marketing efforts of the Anderson 400. The site already is listed through the Quad-City First website on LOIS, a national online location-analysis tool, and being marketed by Dan Schneckloth, a Realtor with Mel Foster Co.
Anderson said her vision has always been for a single corporate company, such as a Fortune 500, make the Anderson 400 its new home. But as part of the documentation and planning, there are site plans to include options for multiple buyers and developments.
The farm was purchased in the 1960s and 1970s by Paul Anderson's parents, Harold and Margaret Anderson, who died in November 2014 and March 2013, respectively. Today, the front 50 acres of the Anderson 400 are owned by Paul and Marijo Anderson, of Solon, Iowa. The remaining 350 acres are owned by the Anderson Family Trust, which represents Paul Anderson and his five sisters, who all grew up on the site.
The Anderson couple, his sisters as well as many of their children joined dignitaries, other relatives and friends for the event. The crowd also included Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce leaders as well as city leaders from Princeton, LeClaire and Bettendorf, Scott County and area state legislators and federal delegation representatives.
Chamber CEO Paul Rumler applauded the Andersons for having a vision "and to take a role in making something happen. Today is a great example of what it takes to be successful as a region. Marijo and the Anderson family really shaped a vision from the early '90s... to what happened here today."
He said this marks the second certified site for the Quad-Cities, joining the Eastern Iowa Industrial Park in northwest Davenport.
"That first site is full," he said, crediting the fact that the site was certified to landing companies such as Kraft Heinz and Sterilite. "We can't wait to have a similar result on this property."