Business

Cedar Rapids now home to Iowa's first 'mega park,' ready for development

Linn County boasts the most certified development-ready acres in the state

A map shows the location of the Big Cedar Industrial Center is seen during the announcement that the Big Cedar Industrial Center has achieved official Mega Site certification during a presentation at the Alliant Energy hangar at The Eastern Iowa Airport in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A map shows the location of the Big Cedar Industrial Center is seen during the announcement that the Big Cedar Industrial Center has achieved official Mega Site certification during a presentation at the Alliant Energy hangar at The Eastern Iowa Airport in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — With the addition of the state’s first “mega park” near southwest Cedar Rapids, Linn County is now home to the most state-certified development-ready acres in Iowa.

State and local officials gathered Wednesday at The Eastern Iowa Airport to celebrate the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s mega-site certification of the Big Cedar Industrial Center, a more than 1,300-acre site in southwest Cedar Rapids.

Jeanine Penticoff, Alliant Energy vice president of customer engagement and solutions, described the Big Cedar site — which is bound by Edgewood Road SW to the east, 76th Avenue SW on the south, Lefebure Road SW to the west and a portion of the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway to the north — as not only a boon to local development, but part of a much larger effort to localize transit, cargo and industrial opportunities near Cedar Rapids and Fairfax.

“There are more than 1,000 acres of opportunity here at Big Cedar,” Penticoff said. “We also recognize that this site is part of a bigger package of development offerings in the region.”

The Big Cedar site is one of Alliant Energy’s more than a dozen development-ready sites in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Debi Durham, director of Iowa Economic Development Authority, said the organization began its certification program in 2012 and has since added 22 certified sites state wide. Another nine are in the works, she said.

Durham said the ability to boast hundreds of contiguous acres of development-ready land creates a tremendous economic development boon for the area.

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Just last year, Big Cedar was considered for Mazda-Toyota’s plans to build a $1.6 billion car manufacturing plant.

“It is rare to have this much land where all the key site-selection questions have already been asked and answered ... it is a turnkey location,” Durham said.

Big Cedar was first announced in 2016 by Iowa Land and Building, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy.

Big Cedar also sits just north of the 582-acre Cedar Rapids Land and Air Super Park off Wright Brothers Boulevard SW north of The Eastern Iowa Airport. The super park was certified in 2015 and includes 480 acres of airport-owned land.

While there is no national standard for what defines a mega industrial park, IEDA classifies mega sites as those with at least 1,000 contiguous acres of ready-for-development land. The site also must have adequate electric, natural gas, water and wastewater capacity, as well as access to interstate highways, air and rail service.

A super park is similar to a mega park, but ranges in size from 500 to 1,000 acres.

There have not been any major developments on either park, but Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said he is confident something is on the way.

“This is really a big deal, figuratively and literally,” he said.

Officials say Big Cedar and the Land and Air Super park also benefit from nearby freight and cargo projects.

Earlier this week, Alliant Energy Transportation, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, announced the purchase of Cedar Rapids-based transportation company Hybrid Transit Systems.

Kevin Burke, president of Alliant Energy Transportation, said the trucking company will work in tandem with Alliant’s other transportation providers, the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway — often referred to as CRANDIC — and IEI Barge Services in East Dubuque, Ill.

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“Currently, our existing customers need more options for multimodal, and then for future customers we want to have something that is going to give a full array of supply-chain solutions. It might be rail, it might be truck, it might be barge,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, officials last month announced that The Eastern Iowa Airport secured an $8.8 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to relocate the airport’s cargo facilities away from the main terminal building, expand the west cargo apron area and build a connecting taxiway to allow for a joint-use cargo center.

Doing so will boost the airport’s freight and passenger capacities, airport officials have said.

To the north of both certified sites, the Iowa Department of Transportation plans to build a full-service intermodal facility southwest of Highway 30.

The $46.5 million Cedar Rapids Logistics Park is planned to incorporate three components: intermodal facilities for freight-to-truck transfer and vice versa; a cross-docking facility for truck-to-truck transfers; and a bulk freight storage and transfer operation.

The facility would ease the movement of freight between trucks, rail cars and shipping containers, allowing a more efficient and economical movement of goods.

Officials say the airport expansion and freight facility make the two industrial parks all the more attractive to prospective developers, as they offer nearby shipping options for products.

Officials have said the certified parks will pair with nearby transit and cargo upgrades to further promote the area for future development.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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