Renewed push for MEGA program approval in Iowa legislature

DES MOINES — Two Iowa business groups are asking state legislators to let foreign businesses buy vast tracts of Iowa farmland for massive facilities focused on manufacturing, biosciences or research.

The bill would lift the 320 acre limit on foreign purchases of Iowa land and create new tax breaks for these so called Major Economic Growth Attraction or MEGA sites. The MEGA program is a priority for the Iowa Business Council, which represents 21 of Iowa’s largest companies.

“This project, in particular, allows Iowa to compete on a national scale to try to recruit and lure in new companies into our great state,” said Joe Murphy, president of the Iowa Business Council. “Not only does this help enhance Iowa’s economy, but it’s also a population growth strategy to make sure that we’re bringing in new assets, new people and new businesses into the state of Iowa.”

Murphy made his comments during a budget hearing hosted by Governor Reynolds.  Dustin Miller is executive director of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, which represents the state’s 15 largest chambers of commerce, touted the program, too.

“Some of these investments, when you’re talking about billions, not millions, are transformational,” Miller said Wednesday. “These things become attraction tools in and of themselves.”

Reynolds made a quick reference to the MEGA proposal during the online forum.  “Proud to say $3.9 billion of capital investment in the state in 2023, so let’s see if we can’t grow that even more with some significant tools in place to attract more business to the state of Iowa,” Reynolds said.

The Iowa Senate approved a bill creating this new economic development incentive last year, on a 45-2 vote, but it stalled in the House in the closing days of the 2023 legislative session.