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JOHN DEERE OPENS ANKENY IA PLANT'S MAJOR EXPANSION
Des Moines Register reports:

Like many in Iowa, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds' ties to Deere & Co. run deep, she told about 350 people Monday attending the official opening of the farm equipment manufacturer's latest addition in Ankeny.

Reynolds said her father, Charles Strawn, worked for more than 40 years at the Des Moines Works plant, eventually moving from the assembly line to supervising production of the plant's cotton harvesters. "We know first-hand the impact this great company has on families and communities all across the state of Iowa," said Reynolds, whose grandfather, John Strawn, also worked at the plant.

On Tuesday, company leaders said innovation helped drive the need for the 300,000-square-foot addition, where the Moline, Ill.-based company will assemble sprayers for corn, soybeans and other crops.

The addition is part of $85 million in investment at the Ankeny plant, including upgrading equipment and beefing up research and development. The plant was originally built to supply munitions during World War II.

Today, the plant employs about 1,900 workers, with the project helping to retain 400 of those jobs.

"What's going on in the factory now, gives me high confidence that Des Moines' best days lay ahead of it," said Deere CEO Sam Allen, pointing to the plant's teamwork and ability to find new product developments.

"Great products take innovation. And people don't appreciate Des Moines' level of innovation, compared even to other factories" within the corporation, said Allen, pointing to improvements in the cotton harvester that he said has revolutionized the industry.

Allen said the plant made few sprayers when he worked there. "We didn't have a big presence in the industry. But today Deere is pre-eminent, not just in the U.S. but all around the world, because of the innovation that is in that product," said Allen, who worked at Des Moines Works for seven years.

"As long as the factory continues to work with great leadership, with a highly aligned team to be the most globally competitive, we're going to continue investing the R&D dollars needed to keep the innovations coming," he told the crowd.

John Teeple, the plant's manager, said the new sprayer assembly space will bring the newest technology in farm equipment manufacturing. For example, an automated guided vehicle - called AGV, "a smart tool at the center of the plant's assembly process," Teeple said - moves the sprayer's chassis through the plant.

The vehicle "won't move to the next station until all the operators have performed all the tasks, including torquing all the bolts to the exact specifications and connecting all the electrical connections, whatever function is supposed to be performed," Teeple said.

The AGV talks with a computer system that lets the operator and workers know "all the work has been done appropriately," he said.

Gov. Terry Branstad said the state is working to reduce property taxes for the company, its dealers, farmers and workers. He said action that lawmakers took last session will reduce taxes for commercial and industrial property taxes by 10 percent and better control property taxes for all Iowans.

Branstad said the savings that companies see in property taxes will be reinvested into new jobs and capital improvements. It "encourages more investment in the future," he said.

The governor also said the state is working to help companies like Deere expand their export markets, by deepening relationships with countries like Brazil and China. About 30 percent of Deere's products are exported.

United Auto Workers representative Ron McInroy said the capital investment rolls over into the economy. Every paycheck that leaves the plant "turns over about 13 times in the local economy," he said.

"This is really about you folks sitting out there in jeans and a T-shirt, doing all the work," McInroy said. "This is your opportunity to build the finest machines out there."


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