State economic development officials are expected to take action today in hopes of persuading a company to build a $1.3 billion nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant in southeast Iowa rather than Illinois.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board granted $24 million in tax credits to Orascom Construction Industries earlier this year, but Illinois officials have continued to pursue the plant for their side of the river.

Debi Durham, state economic development chief for Iowa, says the board will now consider a package that could quadruple Iowa’s initial incentive package. “We will have a total allocation of investment tax credits off a capital investment in the project of 100 million dollars over a four year period of time,” Durham said. The incentive package would require approval from future IEDA boards.

Orascom is looking at building the plant in Lee County. “Lee County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and these are extremely high paying jobs,” Durham said. The project is expected to create 165 jobs, most of which would pay an annual salary of $43,000.

Officials with Orascom, based in Cairo, Egypt, had expressed concerns with the original proposed site in Lee County. Durham said the site has been changed – to an area near the town of Wever – so it’s no longer in a flood plain. “We believe this is the right location too because it doesn’t have a lot of the environmental concerns of other places,” Durham said. “At least on initial modeling, the DNR is not seeing any red flags or any real concerns.”

The incentive package to be considered today would represent the state’s largest ever capital investment in a business. Company officials reported earlier this year that the product produced in southeast Iowa would replace much of the nitrogen fertilizer currently being imported from other countries.