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Tuscola lands $1.4 billion fertilizer plant

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SPRINGFIELD -- Economic incentives potentially worth more than $14 million in taxpayer dollars played a key role in helping Illinois land a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant, said a state lawmaker who helped shepherd the package through the General Assembly.

State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, said the state aid was a critical factor in convincing Cronus Chemical to build the facility in Tuscola.

"I think we had to have some skin in the game," Brown said Tuesday.

Cronus is planning a formal announcement at 9:30 a.m. today that it will begin construction on the urea production complex in the coming months with an eye on opening in 2018. It will take an estimated 2,000 construction workers to build the facility, which will employ about 175 workers when finished, the company has said.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to attend today's announcement, signed off on the incentive plan in July 2013 as a way to convince the firm to build in Illinois.

Cronus also was considering a site in Mitchell County, Iowa. Cronus spokesman Dave Lundy said the company considered a total of 76 sites in nine states before zeroing in on Central Illinois.

Illinois tax dollars will pay for upgrading roads in the region to handle the increased truck traffic, as well as provide tax breaks for the company.

"I think the incentive package was critical for the final decision," Brown said.

The 250-acre site is located near Interstate 57 and a CSX rail line.

In addition to having a strong transportation network in the area, the company also worked with Champaign County officials to plan a pipeline that will provide treated wastewater for the plant operations.

The facility, to be known as Cronus Fertilizers, is expected to produce 800,000 tons per year of ammonia, most of which will be converted to 1.4 million tons of granular urea.

Brown said the plant is good news for farmers.

"A fertilizer plant right in the middle of an agricultural state is huge news for producers," Brown said.

Cronus Chemicals, based in Delaware, is owned by a group of Swiss and Turkish investors and headed by Erzin Atac. The firm will open a headquarters in Chicago employing 25.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

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