Orascom finally breaks ground

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LEE COUNTY, IOWA - Orascom Construction Industries finally broke ground on its $1.4 billion fertilizer plant Monday.

The company was supposed to start construction in October, but it the company delayed construction for a month and a half. The facility will allow farmers throughout the Midwest to buy local nitrogen fertilizer to help grow their crops. Orascom plans on having 165 full-time jobs at the plant. It will also create about 1,700 construction jobs in the meantime.

"We can go through the winter working," construction worker Kevin Sigwalt said. "I'm going from working 40 hours a week to 60 or 70. Plus it's overtime ya know?"

Sigwalt has been moving dirt at the site for about a week. The site is on 180th Street just south of Wever. The plant is also supposed to spur 700 extra jobs in Lee County that have nothing to do with the construction or work in the fertilizer plant.

"We have an automotive business, a small one," car shop owner Clark Griffin said. "My wife and I own the business. We have three employees, so it's small, but we're looking to expand."

Orascom CEO Nassef Sawiris attended the event Monday. He says that Lee County, Iowa was always Orascom's first choice. Orascom was also interested in building its facility in Scott County in between Davenport and Wilton.

"It might actually be the safest and cleanest plant in the world because this plant will be state of the art on emissions reduction," Sawiris said.

The plant is supposed to be open by 2015. The company is getting 20 years worth of property tax exemptions to build its facility.