The Quad City Times reports today that officials from a group called Project Cronus visited the Illinois Statehouse earlier this week to discuss the development of a world-scale granular urea production facility near Tuscola, IL in Douglas County. The QCTimes article quotes Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District executive director, Rick Manner who said, "We are optimistic...it looks like Illinois has a good chance at this."
The proposed site for the facility would be near existing chemical manufacturing complexes and a natural gas pipeline. The company is reported to already have spoken with officials at the Champaign-Urbana sewer district regarding the possibility of using effluent water for production purposes.
Illinois is still stinging from what it calls the loss of OCI to Iowa -- Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) had shopped Illinois locations before breaking ground on the Iowa Fertilizer Company production facility south of Burlington, IA in November 2012. Iowa legislators have come under democratic criticism for the amount of tax incentives that were offered to OCI to lure the nitrogen plant into Iowa -- away from Illinois.
Given that criticism, which is sharp to this day, Iowa officials aren't likely to touch this one with a ten foot pole. Iowa Republican leaders, who were largely in favor of the OCI incentives, have no more to spend and while some Iowa Democrats have voiced concern at the tax expenditure, the benefits of domestic fertilizer production in the world's number one corn growing state seems to have slipped off the radar. The QCTimes article has Iowa and Illinois contending for the proposed new facility and a site in Mitchell County, IA has been considered, but it is clear that the political climate in Iowa has no more room for the expenditures a project like this would require.
Iowa Democratic Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm -- whose district includes Mitchell County -- told the QCTimes that Mitchell County Economic Development director Brenda Dryer had contacted her about a 'possible development'. "She said something was in the works, and they may need our help," Wilhelm said. "She could have said fertilizer plant, but I'm not sure." How an Iowa state senator could miss the words 'fertilizer plant' in a conversation with economic development authorities leads to speculation that Wilhelm just does not want to open that can of worms.
The Illinois plant, as proposed, would cost in the neighborhood of 1.2 billion dollars and would go operational in 2016. Its proximity to other chemical manufacturers and a natural gas pipeline would be a terrific benefit to the entire corn belt. Construction of the complex would add 2000 construction jobs and the operational facility is expected to hire around 150 full time workers. The economic benefits for both the workforce and growers coupled with the potential for diminishing U.S. reliance on foreign fertilizer make the proposed facility a potentially sweet deal for Illinois.
Click here for the full Quad City Times article.