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Values Fund Board approves $10 million for Wells Fargo


As one of its first official actions last week, the Grow Iowa Values Fund Board on Thursday approved a $10 million forgivable loan to Wells Fargo.      The incentive is part of a $175 million economic development project in which Wells Fargo will construct a new facility and bring 2,000 new jobs to Greater Des Moines.

The San Francisco-based company, which already employs 9,200 people in Iowa, plans to build 960,000 square feet of office space in what’s planned as an office campus of up to 180 acres.

The importance of the Wells Fargo project, which will add $64 million to the Greater Des Moines payroll, was highlighted by a visit to the board by Gov. Tom Vilsack on Thursday. He touted the project as the “payoff” for months of hard preparatory work.

“Today is the first step of many, many steps that this board will take to transform the state,” Vilsack said.

The Wells Fargo project represents “a tremendous kickoff to the Values Fund,” said Mike Blouin, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Deveopment. “Two thousand jobs represents 4 percent of the overall (50,000 jobs) goal in one fell swoop. It’s huge.”

The project now moves to the site selection stage, with final approval by the Wells Fargo board of directors expected within the next four to six weeks. The company is looking for up to 180 acres of land in West Des Moines, Des Moines or Urbandale.

Overall, the bulk of the positions will be customer service and operations positions, which will pay about $28,500, on average. Managerial positions will average $54,000.

“These are good-paying jobs with a very strong global company that has an incredible growth curve with growth plans that are very solid,” Blouin said. “It hits right on the mark in our information solutions cluster.”

The information solutions cluster is one of three industry areas the Values Fund is targeting, along with advanced manufacturing and life sciences.

Wells Fargo already has deep roots in Iowa, said Pete Wissinger, president and CEO of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

The approved incentive was “a critical piece of information” needed to assess the economics of further expansion in Iowa, he said.

The new office space will accommodate a total of 5,300 employees, including 3,300 current employees to be transferred from leased space and 2,000 new employees to be added over the next four years.

Wells Fargo, which had profits last year of $5.4 billion, is investing $124.6 million of its own assets in the project. In addition to the $10 million from the Values Fund, the project is also receiving $30 million in local financing; $8 million from the New Jobs and Training Fund; $2.4 million in construction tax refunds; and $20 million in tax increment financing for infrastructure and roadways.

Wells Fargo will have to guarantee the jobs remain in place for a 10-year period, Blouin said. If it does not produce the 2,000 new jobs within four years, it will have to repay the loan, probably on a sliding scale based on actual jobs created, he added.

That the Values Fund’s first project benefits Greater Des Moines, rather than rural Iowa, there is a greater sensitivity to where future Values Fund dollars will be spent.

“We will be criticized because this is in Des Moines,” said State Rep. Clarence Hoffman, another ex officio board member. “But our real competitors are (other large Midwest cities). … This will benefit all of Iowa.”

State Sen. Mark Zieman, a Republican from Postville representing District 8 in Northeast Iowa, said he and other rural legislators will “get beat up” by their constituents over apparent favoritism to urban projects.

Zieman and other rural legislators want to see value-added agriculture projects as a leading part of the Values Fund projects.

Hoffman echoed Vilsack’s sentiments that the Values Fund is for all of Iowa.

“This is a great project to start with, and we are going to move forward and look at all of Iowa,” Hoffman said.

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