Despite the recession, the economic development group Priority One is working to get 27 companies that would employ a total of 3,300 people to locate in Corridor.
The companies, which would represent $445 million in new investment, expect to make site decisions within six months, Kyle Skogman, 2010 Priority One chairman, said Tuesday at the group’s annual meeting.
Priority One assisted 10 businesses with expansions and helped attract three new companies to the Corridor in the last fiscal year — generating more than $24 million of capital investment, creating 843 new jobs and retaining 370 positions — according to Mark Long, Priority One’s 2009 chairman.
Last month, Diamond V Mills opened a new manufacturing plant off 60th Street SW, and Genencor International, 1000 41st Ave. Dr. SW, completed a product-development laboratory.
The companies are part of the food and bioprocessing industry in Cedar Rapids, which has a substantial regional economic impact, according to Frank Rydzewski, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Iowa Henry B. Tippie College of Business, and keynote speaker Tuesday.
The industry accounts for 4,000 direct jobs in the community and another 8,000 indirect jobs, Rydzewski said.
“The total economic impact is $5.32 billion in annual industrial output, with $670 million in annual labor income” in wages and salaries, he said.
Rydzewski said the figures were compiled by Dave Swenson, an Iowa State University economist, based on data Rydzewski and UI students developed into a database of byproducts and waste streams from the industry.
Tom Reed, former president of Penford Products in Cedar Rapids, said Priority One is looking at industry byproducts such as dried distillers’ grains to attract future employers that would use it as a raw material.
Quaker Oats used to landfill oat hulls, which are now used by J. Rettenmaier and SunOpta to make food grade oat fiber and by the UI as a fuel to generate electricity, Reed said.
Rydzewski, also a former president of Penford Products, said the economic impact of the food and bioprocessing industry is not limited to urban areas. He noted that farmers in a 100-mile radius supply corn.
“Cedar Rapids is the largest processor of corn in the world,” Rydzewski said. “Every day, this industry uses 1.1 million bushels of corn, grown on over 6,000 acres.
“That’s enough corn to fill Carver Hawkeye Arena in just two days.”
Jacoblee Ver Dught, a UI senior from Fort Madison, said student visits to area companies to compile the database and industry study were revealing.
“Seeing how these companies operate was an eye-opening experience,” Ver Dught said. “I don’t think I can express how surprised we were when we saw what is happening in Cedar Rapids. ”