Chinese investors are joining a $41-million project to build a hotel and convention center in Muscatine.
The project is expected to create 110 jobs when it opens in early 2016.
Muscatine shares a special bond with China and the Mississippi River.
"They can go back home and say they were on the Mississippi River," said developer Tom Meeker.
Chinese investors from Muscatine's sister city are willing to pay for that experience. They're pledging more than $20 million to transform riverfront space into a tourist destination.
"I think the primary reason is the economic future of Muscatine," said developer Ann Meeker.
Tom and Ann Meeker have already turned around dozens of local buildings. This ambitious project is also in the running for a $10-million grant from Iowa.
"It's kind of a unique spot," Tom said. "And as you can see, the real estate isn't being used very well right now."
Meeker's magic includes a 103-room hotel. It's designed to attract worldwide guests.
"We'll re-do this whole storefront," he said.
They'll turn a former furniture store into a convention center.
"There will be at least a dozen different rooms," he said.
The project illustrates Muscatine's role in a global economy. There's a special bond with China that's bringing world tourism to Iowa.
Incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping renewed friendships in Muscatine two years ago. The bond with Muscatine and Mark Twain strengthens that relationship.
"They read his writings in China, and they're fascinated with the Mississippi River," said Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins.
It's a vision to make the most of the riverfront.
"They're 100% behind the project," Tom concluded.
From friendship to business, it's a Chinese connection that continues to grow in Muscatine.