ROCK FALLS – Plans were made public Tuesday for a four-phase business development project that has started in the city’s west-side industrial park.
The city’s Industrial Development Commission unanimously approved the sale of 20 acres of land in the business park along Clearwater Drive to corncob processor Best Cob. The city will receive $200,000 for the acreage, which was part of the land it acquired for the construction of its sewer plant.
Best Cob is locally owned, but its manufacturing operations are based in Independence, Iowa. The first phase of the project, which already is underway, is to put up a 83,000-square-foot storage building. The next phase would be a production facility. The third phase would be split between additional storage and manufacturing space, and the fourth stage would be a corporate office.
The company now has corporate operations in both cities, but the new office would make Rock Falls the official headquarters.
The company’s corncobs have many industrial uses, including metal finishing, abrasive blasting, animal bedding and feed, lawn care and pesticides, pharmaceuticals, wastewater operations, automotive production, cat litter, and athletic field maintenance.
The contract calls for the land deal to close on or before Nov. 15. Best Cob will receive a grant from the state’s EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) program, which provides tax credits for companies’ projects that meet capital investment and job creation and retention criteria. The company still is awaiting word on exactly how much their state incentives will be worth.
“The council had turned the land over to the IDC, but we had been waiting on state paperwork,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. “We were indemnified so they could start work before the sale and the $200,000 has been held in an escrow account – this is just the formal contract.”
Best Cob’s operations are highly automated, so new job estimates are between 20 and 30 when all four phases of the project are completed. The tax credit is usually 50% of the income tax withholdings of each new job created, but if the project was deemed to be in an economically challenged area, that percentage jumps to 75%.
The company’s Iowa facility has about 46 employees.
Best Cob also will have access to economic incentives within the Whiteside/Carroll Enterprise Zone. The city has agreed to pay for any stormwater drainage work, including retention or detention systems, that needs to be done at the site.
While there will be a 5-year abatement of property taxes, the city stands to make tens of thousands of dollars a month from the company’s electric utility bills when the project is completed.
“When the second phase is completed, Best Cob will immediately become the city’s top electric user,” Blackert said.
The company has agreed to give the city a utility easement for future water infrastructure if more development comes into the area.
The company had no problem with granting the easement, said Shay Moeller, general manager at Best Cob.
“Putting a facility in Illinois, specifically Rock Falls, is a great opportunity for us,” Moeller said. “We know the community and the city understood our need to start immediately. The easement will cut the city’s expenses for further development.”
The company had been renting a storage facility from the city of Sterling at the former Northwestern Steel & Wire site, but the building was in the way of the city’s riverfront development plans. The city sold the building to the Greater Sterling Development Corp., who decided to convert it into business incubator space in the city’s Meadowland Business Park, where the building was moved to after being dismantled. Work is underway to reassemble and refurbish the building.
The Rock Falls location will be a great fit for improving the company’s logistics, which should facilitate growth.
“This site cuts our transportation time and costs tremendously,” Moeller said. “It allows us to increase market share and capacity.”
The city is also excited about prospects for this project bringing other companies to the industrial park.
“We are pushing the people we sell to to bring additional manufacturing to Rock Falls,” Moeller said.
Plans are underway for the manufacturing phase of the project, which the company wants to begin as soon as possible.