Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

July 26, 2013

Illinois, Iowa wait for fertilizer plant decision

CHAMPAIGN — — The company that wants to build a $1.2 billion fertilizer plant in either northern Iowa or eastern Illinois has offers of incentives from both states and plans to choose a site in 30 to 60 days.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed economic legislation Thursday that includes incentives to try to convince Cronus Chemical LLC to build in the state.

Now, all there is left to do is wait.

"That's exactly what we're doing," Brian Moody, executive director of Tuscola Economic Development Inc., said after Quinn signed the legislation. "This was the last major box that we had to check locally."

Cronus plans to choose between a site just outside Tuscola and one in Mitchell County, Iowa, to build a nitrogen fertilizer plant that would employ about 150 people and create more than 1,500 short-term construction jobs.

The proposal is one of at least 20 similar plans to either build massive fertilizer plants or expand existing facilities across North America, driven by newly abundant and cheap supplies of natural gas being turned up by hydraulic fracturing. Natural gas is a key component in many fertilizers and high prices drove a lot of fertilizer production out of North America a decade or more ago.

David Lundy, a spokesman for Cronus Chemical, said the company is now trying to figure out which site makes sense.

"We're trying to establish costs and work through some questions with contractors," he said. "That's a fairly time-intensive, laborious process."

The details of Illinois' offer haven't been made public, but the Champaign News-Gazette reported it's worth about $30 million. Moody wouldn't discuss details, but says the offer includes things like road and highway improvements around the plant, as well as more traditional tax breaks.

The dollar figure on Iowa's, while also not made public, has been estimated at about $35 million in news reports. Economic development officials in Mitchell County didn't return calls on Friday, and in the past have declined to discuss details.

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