MEGA program for $1 billion plus projects gets legislators’ approval

DES MOINES — The Iowa legislature has voted to create a program that would offer state tax credits and sales tax rebates for businesses that are making a more than $1 BILLION capital investment in Iowa.

Senator Dan Dawson of Council Bluffs says it’s called the “Major Economic Growth Attractions” or “MEGA” program.  “These projects are rare,” Dawson said. “They don’t come around very often,” Dawson says.

Dawson says the local community has to approve the development. “It must be on over 250 acres,” Dawson says. “It must be primarily engaged in the advanced manufacturing, biosciences and research businesses only.”

Senator William Dotzler of Waterloo says these kind of incentives are necessary.  “We’re in competition with other states,” Dotzler said. “…Other states are putting into these projects even greater than what we are.”

The bill also provides some state funding to help 88 Iowa counties that are outside of urban areas improve tracts of land so it’s immediately ready for business development. Representative Brian Lohse (LOH-see) of Bondurant says the upgrades required for certified sites can be out of reach for smaller communities. “It is a very extensive and very expensive thing to do,” Lohse says, “and it’s incredibly productive.”

The far larger MEGA program won approval in the Iowa Senate a year ago, but stalled in the House over concerns about a foreign company owning farmland. The bill’s final version says a foreign business that gets incentives from this MEGA program cannot be located in the six counties considered to be adversaries of the United States.