WEVER, Iowa -- The only thing bigger than the size of the Orascom fertilizer plant in Lee County is the controversy surrounding the funding of its construction. Today the massive testament to the Branstad-Reynolds economic policy was officially opened for business.
Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and other dignitaries cut the ribbon on the facility today. The facility cost around $2 billion to build. Helping fund that construction is $107 million in state tax credits and refunds as well as more than $100 in local tax breaks. The facility also is receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax breaks.
The project has been highlighted by Democrats as the key contributor to the state's current economic problems. The factory will employ 200 full-time workers when it is fully operational. That means the state alone is giving the company more than $500,000 for each full-time job created. That figure climbs to $2.5 million per job when local and federal taxes are included. The state has had to cut more than $130 million from the current year's just to balance the budget.
Governor Branstad views that argument as short sided. He says since construction of the plant began the unemployment rate in Lee County has dropped from 8.0% to 5.3%. 3,500 temporary jobs were created in the state's construction industries by the plan.
The biggest economic incentive is yet to come, according to the governor. "For decades the market for fertilizer products has been dominated by foreign imports and the transportation costs have driven the price up for Iowa farmers," Gov. Branstad said today, "this is going to be not only a more efficient source but also a more reliable economical source because it's close to the users."
This facility is the first of its kind built in the United States in more than 25 years.