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Whirlpool plans investment in Amana refrigerator plant

Dave DeWitte, CR Gazette –

Whirlpool Corp. plans to invest $3.1 million to bring a built-in refrigeration production line to its Amana plant.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority approved a maximum $400,000 Research Activities Tax Credit at its meeting Friday for a project to move production equipment from a plant Whirlpool is closing in Fort Smith, Ark., and to buy additional new equipment.

The total project includes $27 million in research and development activities, according to Tina Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the economic development authority.

Built-in refrigerators are designed to be installed into cabinetry or walls with front panels that blend in or complement the kitchen decor.

The tax credit will be up to $400,000, Hoffman said, and has no associated job creation requirement.

Whirlpool announced plans last October to close the Arkansas plant in mid-2012. The closing was expected to affect 884 hourly workers and 90 salaried employees.

The Amana plant produces primarily bottom-freezer refrigerator models. The company has worked in partnership with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, ICAD Group, Kirkwood Community College, Iowa County and the state on the project.

“Through this partnership, the Amana facility will continue its efforts to drive improved productivity and efficiency, and support the efforts of our brands to deliver a constant stream of new innovation to consumers,” Amana Division Vice President Dan Smith said in prepared remarks.

ICAD Group and the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance said in a joint statement that the changes will help ensure the Whirlpool plant remains a vital member of the Amana Community. The plant employs 1,700.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority approved incentives for 11 companies that are expected to help create 403 new jobs, retain 44 jobs and bring $389 million in capital investment to the state at Friday’s meeting.

Alpla Inc. was awarded tax benefits with a maximum value of $646,000 for an expansion of its Iowa City plastic packing product factory.

The incentives will support a $12 million investment in the plant that will add machinery and assembly equipment. It is expected to create 37 new jobs, 19 of which are tied to incentives. The average wage will be $20.92 per hour.

Mobile Track Solutions in Elkader was awarded $100,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits through the Enterprise Zone program for construction of a new building at its Elkader facility. The $2.7 million project is expected to add 20 jobs at the plant, which makes construction equipment used in earth moving work.

State incentives were also approved for a $24 million project at the John Deere Dubuque Works to buy new machinery and equipment to increase production and distribution of the company’s crawler products. The project is expected to create 125 jobs and retain 44 jobs.

Elsewhere in Iowa, projects included tax benefits to Google Inc. for a potential expansion of its data center operations in the Council Bluffs Area. The project would result in a $300 million capital investment and a minimum of 35 jobs if Iowa is selected over competing sites.

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