BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – On Tuesday the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) announced that a development-ready site in Fort Madison is the latest industrial site to achieve certification through the Iowa Certified Sites program. The Fort Madison Industrial Site joins 26 other sites in the state designated as project-ready.
“This program gives Iowa a tremendous advantage in attracting great companies and jobs to our state,” said Debi Durham, executive director of IEDA and the Iowa Finance Authority. “Companies that want to expand or relocate are conducting their site searches on aggressive timelines. Certification tells these companies a site is development-ready and shows our communities are open for business and prepared to welcome new investment.”
The 128-acre Fort Madison Industrial Site includes approximately 100 contiguous, developable acres. The site is certified as a General Industrial Site, with all utilities located near the site for easy extension. The property includes no wetlands or flood zone.
“This has been a long-time coming, but we recognize the potential advantage we now have with the only privately held site in southeast Iowa complete,” said Tim Gobble, executive director of Fort Madison Partners. “We had a lot of partners in this process and are grateful for the help in completing the tasks we put on them.”
Gobble said the project has been in the works for about five years. The only other certified site in southeast Iowa is at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. That cite is certified by the state and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The Fort Madison location is a state-certified site.
IEDA launched the Iowa Certified Sites program in 2012 to address the lack of project-ready industrial sites in the state. It is an independent, third-party program with certification through the nationally recognized site selection firm Quest Site Solutions. The program is designed to consider national site location standards, as well as Iowa’s natural assets and the needs of the state’s targeted industry sectors of advanced manufacturing, biosciences and finance and insurance.
Site certification remains one of the most important factors in the site selection business. It is a rigorous process that ensures developers – working closely with local officials, utility partners and consultants – are better prepared to market their sites with specific site-related information and community data. The process also speeds up the development schedule by having due diligence completed and plans in place to mitigate any identified issues, reducing risk for companies.
In addition to the 27 sites certified through the Iowa Certified Sites program, four additional sites are working through the various phases of the program. A new round of applications opened this month.
The only other site in SE Iowa is the Iowa Army Ammunition and that’s only available for lease. both BNSF and state certified.
Lee County Economic Development Group President Dennis Fraise said the certification is huge for the county.
“Debi Durham always says no property – no project. Tim’s done a great job getting that project across the finish line. It’s a huge get for Fort Madison and the county,” Fraise said.
He said the county is working preliminarily on other state certified sites, one in Keokuk. A site near the Iowa Fertilizer Plant is in progress for certification as a BNSF site.
“We envision having a couple sites in the county, but this is huge because it’s a game changer. Having a piece of property with all the testing already done is great for the area,” Fraise said.