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Waterloo (IA) Courier reports:

The City Council paved the way for a $27.8 million expansion of the John Deere Product Engineering Center during Monday night's meeting.

Following a public hearing, the council approved a five-year partial property tax abatement for the project.

Director of Developmental Services Ron Gaines said Deere's plans have been on the city's radar for several months. The city issued a building permit on June 24 for an addition that is expected to have a valuation of about $9.5 million.

Seventy-five percent of the project's taxable value would be exempt from taxation for the first year, decreasing by increments of 15 percent over the five years until the full valuation comes on the tax rolls.

"The expansion totals nearly 62,000 square feet of additional space and improvements to the existing engineering center's infrastructure," said Chris Myers, global director of tractor platform engineering. "The project is needed to accommodate the continuing evolution to larger agricultural equipment."

Deere announced its improvement plans in May shortly after the Iowa Economic Development Authority approved job-retention incentives for the project.

The expansion allows Deere to retain 29 full-time positions at its Cedar Falls location rather than transfer them to other tractor testing facilities, the company and IEDA reported. Positions retained are in the areas of engineering and product development.

The council also gave the green light to another major expansion project on Monday. Standard Distributing plans to to build a new 108,000 square foot distribution center on 16 acres in the city's northern industrial park, which has access to rail services.

"That's one of the assets this faculty was seeking," Gaines said, adding the new building will be valued between at $3.3 million and $3.8 million.

Monday evening's council meeting was the first to be held on the new schedule that became effective July 1: the first and third Mondays of each month.

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