Iowa economic development director to be questioned by legislators today

Committee chair says state engaged in 'amateur hour' negotiations with Orascom

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The director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority could face tough questioning from legislators about $200 million in tax breaks given to an Egyptian company that plans to build a fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa.

Director Debi Durham will appear Tuesday before the Senate Way and Means Committee, where Democratic lawmakers are expected to question her about the state's dealings with Cairo-based Orascom Construction Industries. The company plans to invest $1.4 billion to build the plant near Burlington.

Committee chairman Sen. Joe Bolkcom has criticized incentives approved for Orascom, saying the state engaged in "amateur hour" negotiations with the company.

Durham has acknowledged that during those negotiations, the state failed to uncover that a federal lawsuit alleges an Orascom subsidiary improperly won $332 million in U.S.-financed construction contracts in Egypt.

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