Editorial: Cedar Rapids’ momentum

Cedar Rapids is running on (mostly) all cylinders right now.

The landing of the Sub-Zero light manufacturing facility is just the latest example of some exceptional momentum occurring in the state’s second largest city.

Sub-Zero, headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, is planning a $140.6 million, 400,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 10015 Sixth St. SW, about a mile east of the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Sub-Zero manufactures refrigerators and other high-end appliances. The project will create positions for 192 new full-time employees, 127 of whom will be paid at or above the state’s current high-quality wage rate of $24.20 per hour.

FedEx is also opening a new $108.6 million, 479,000-square-foot warehouse later this year near the Eastern Iowa Airport that will create an estimated 359 part-time jobs and 75 full-time positions, according to a news report.

And BAE Systems is also scheduled to finish a 278,000-square-foot, $139 million facility along Interstate 380 later this year that will serve as an innovation hub for BAE’s military global positioning system (GPS) business.

It’s not a coincidence that these projects are being developed near the Eastern Iowa Airport, one of the economic linchpins of the community and the entire region. The airport is scheduled to get $28,350,890 in federal funding to help with passenger terminal modernization and expansions.

One key to long-term economic success isn’t just the recruitment of businesses and facilities, but rather the nurturing of start-ups and other entrepreneurial companies, and in that arena Cedar Rapids is also succeeding.

Cedar Rapids had 15 of the Corridor’s Fastest Growing 25 companies headquartered in its community. The efforts by the EDC and NewBoCo, as well as the Small Business Development Centers and SCORE, are helping with this important, long-term approach to economic development.

The only question mark for Cedar Rapids is its downtown, which hasn’t fully recovered from the departure of thousands of office workers due to the pandemic.

Fortunately, several initiatives are occurring that should improve its viability.

Steve Emerson, a developer and one of Cedar Rapids’ largest downtown property owners, is remodeling three historic downtown office buildings into housing units.

And the $100 million First and First West project is underway in downtown Cedar Rapids on land once planned for a casino.

This “legacy project” will be developed in phases. The first phase, getting underway this year, includes a Pickle Palace entertainment venue, a Big Grove Brewery, and a mixed-use building featuring commercial spaces on the first floor and 60-80 residential units on the upper floors.

Just think of what could have happened if a downtown casino were also added to this abbreviated list of successes?