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South Korean firm invests in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but critics say Branstad still short on promises

About 180 jobs are coming to the Fort Dodge area thanks to a $324 million investment from South Korean company CJ Cheiljedang, but a state senator says Gov. Terry Branstad is still way behind on his campaign promise to create 200,000 new jobs over five years.

Branstad today announced the facility, which will produce amino acids through fermentation technologies. It will be located next to the Cargill facility, and Branstad said he believes other companies will also locate in the area.

“The location will be right next to Cargill and it will be the beginning of a whole bio-refinery complex,” he said. “I think Cargill envisions this to a be bioscience complex similar to what they already have in Eddyville, Iowa and in Blair, Neb.”

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board approved $1.8 million in direct assistance and tax incentives for the project, and additional incentives are expected from Webster County and an Iowa DOT RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) grant.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/2010/09/Hogg-300x199.jpgState Sen. Rob Hogg (Photo: Iowa Senate Democrats)

State Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) said the new jobs are great news but the governor is still nowhere close to meeting his campaign promise and is actually going in the wrong direction.

“I think he came in promising that he’d be able to do things with job creation and I think the promise was unrealistic,” Hogg said. “I think it was a campaign gimmick to put some number out there and raise people’s hopes to win an election.”

Branstad and Debi Durham, head of the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress, met with CJ Cheiljedang representatives in January. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds then met with them on a trade trip in June, and Branstad visited with them again on his September trade mission to Asia.

“It’s a major investment and it is a result of the direct and hands-on effort that we’ve made at economic development,” he said.

But Hogg said at nine months into Branstad’s administration the state should have 30,000 new jobs. His tally puts the state 15,000 jobs fewer than when he took office in January, and Hogg said cuts to education and economic development will hinder that into the future.

“There’s been this series of things where he’s kind of come in with this new sheriff approach,” Hogg said. “He wants to run everything his own way and the problem with that is we need a bipartisan economic development strategy. My recollection was with the former governor we were having announcements like that every month at least. I haven’t heard that from Governor Branstad because I think we’ve been under-investing in our economic development strategy as a state.”

Branstad also announced today an executive order to create the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress board, a 15-member body including the chair of the economic authority board; head of the Iowa Innovation Corporation; director of Economic Development Authority Board; and the governor or his designee.

Branstad said the 11 other members of the board — which he will appoint without Senate confirmation — will be individuals who are actively engaged in the private, for-profit sector of the economy or have similar experience. The board’s goal is to develop a strategic vision for economic development and private sector job creation.

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