Report: Iowa on list for $1.6 billion Toyota plant

Cedar Rapids has one of the few sites in Iowa big enough for the project

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Iowa is competing for a $1.6 billion automotive manufacturing plant, the Wall Street Journal reported and state officials confirmed this week.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. are considering Iowa and 10 other states for their joint plant, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the deal.

The two car manufacturers announced last week they would join forces to build the plant in the United States by 2021. The plant would employ 4,000 people and create 300,000 vehicles a year. A Toyota spokesperson said in an email the company is “just gearing up the process” of site selection and did not confirm or deny the Journal’s report.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority “is actively working the project,” spokeswoman Tina Hoffman said. She said she could not provide other specifics.

Brenna Smith, a spokeswoman for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, also said the Authority has reached out Toyota “to share the benefits of an Iowa location with them.”

Other states under consideration, according to the Journal, are Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Texas.

The plant, the Journal reported, will need upward of 1,000 acres due to the addition of a second assembly line.

Cedar Rapids boasts one of the few sites in Iowa that has more than 1,000 contiguous acres — Alliant Energy’s Big Cedar Industrial Center. The Industrial Center, with more than 1,300 acres just northwest of the Eastern Iowa Airport, is one of only five sites in Iowa with more than 1,000 acres, according to a property database from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Authority Director Debi Durham told The Gazette last November that an auto-assembly plant would be a good fit for the Industrial Center.

“I think the best and highest uses for that land from the standpoint of capital investment and employee base would be advanced manufacturing — some kind of auto assembly plant — and warehouse/distribution,” Durham said at the time.

Waterloo, Ames, Whittemore and the Fort Madison area also have sites of more than 1,000 acres.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the city has not heard from the companies or the state of Iowa if the city is under consideration.

“There’s not been any direct contact from the company or the state of Iowa,” Pomeranz said.

If the city received word, Pomeranz said staff first would seek to learn more details about the project. The city would be aggressive, though, in trying to recruit the plant, he said.

“We have the utilities, we have the water, we have the wastewater ... infrastructure that makes Cedar Rapids very well suited for a project of this kind,” Pomeranz said.

Scott Drzycimski, Alliant’s director of customer, community and economic development, said the company has not heard whether its industrial site is under consideration.

“I do know that the state has been communicating with Toyota and Mazda to help them understand what’s available here and what can be done. Time will tell whether the Big Cedar is an option for them or not,” Drzycimski said.

Toyota already has a presence in Cedar Rapids through its financial services division. The company employs about 600 in the city, according to the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

The Economic Alliance declined to comment.

IEDA’s Hoffman said large projects often take months, or sometimes years, to come to fruition.

“It could be a long time before we know anything, but we certainly feel like we’ve got great assets to sell here for this kind of a project. We’re excited about the opportunity to compete,” she said.

If Iowa landed the Toyota-Mazda project, it’s likely the state would consider providing an incentive package.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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