The planned expansion of the Progressive Foundry in downtown Perry got the go ahead Tuesday night when the Perry City Council unanimously approved the second and third readings of an ordinance vacating the 1500 block of Second Street.
The century-old foundry, owned by brothers Kirk VanKirk and Darek VanKirk, produces cast iron products for agriculture and industry and employs about 100 workers. Acquiring the one block of Second Street between Bateman and Rawson streets will improve public safety around the plant and permit the company to boost production and create jobs, the VanKirks said.
September has been a good month so far for the Progressive Foundry. On Monday the company signed a purchase agreement with Wiese Industries, buying the Wiese property lying west of Third Street between Bateman and Rawson, that is, the aging Quonset huts and the building now known as Wiese building four.
“We’ve been blessed with good timing,” said Jackson VanKirk, the son of Darek, reflecting on the week’s events after the Tuesday city council meeting. The Progressive Foundry plans to build a 14,000-square-foot building along Rawson Street that would fill Second Street and connect the existing plant with the newly acquired Wiese building four.
The plan calls for demolishing the First Avenue offices and employee facilities and building larger offices, with additional space for a growing staff, a larger lunch room, a training center and locker rooms/showers for both men and women, according to the company’s statements.
In the longer term, the company foresees building another 22,000-square-foot structure where the Quonset huts now stand at Third and Bateman streets.
The city’s property vacation also included several slivers of land along the foundry’s lot lines, approved in order to clean up some old errors and omissions in the land records, leftovers from the railroad’s abandonment of its right of way in 1979.
The city council approved the first reading of the ordinance at its meeting Aug. 19, when it also approved the city’s application for Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) grant funds through the Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy (RISE) program.
The RISE money would cover most of the $2.2 million cost to widen and repave Bateman Street between First Avenue and Fourth Street as well as Third and Fourth streets between Bateman and Rawson streets.
“It’s been a little while since we did a RISE grant,” said Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson. “I think the last one was probably Hy-Line and the extension of the road out at the industrial park.”
According to the Iowa DOT, “The RISE program is targeted toward value-adding activities that feed new dollars into the economy and provide maximum economic impact to the state on primary or secondary roads and city streets open for public use. While all counties and incorporated cities in Iowa are eligible to apply, funding is generally limited to industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and professional office developments.”
RISE grants may be used on “an immediate, non-speculative opportunity for permanent job creation or retention.” Each RISE-eligible job retained may be awarded up to $12,000, so with about 100 employees at the Progressive Foundry and about 50 workers at Wiese Industries, the city should qualify for some $1.8 million in RISE funds. The $400,000 balance for the project would come from tax increment financing (TIF) revenues.
“The streets in there were probably built a long time ago, when there were narrow street designs,” Peterson said, “so this will offer a little bit wider street and better access for vehicles and trucks getting in and out of those areas. For our match, that would also be coming from tax increment financing, from the increase in value that these properties or these projects will promote.”
The RISE fund was created by the Iowa Legislature in 1985 to assist in promoting economic development in Iowa through the construction and improvement of Iowa roads and is administered by the Iowa DOT.
According to the resolution unanimously approved by the Perry City Council, the RISE dollars will be used “to provide improved roadway access to facilitate the retention and expansion of Progressive Foundry and Wiese Industries and the associated job opportunities,” and the resulting “roadway improvements will be dedicated to public use and will remain so dedicated to public use.”
The Perry City Council next meets Monday, September 16 at 6 p.m. in the Clarion Room of the Security Bank Building at 1102 Willis Ave.