"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
Dubuque's first industrial park was begun in 1955. Using two million dollars raised by a referendum and an estimated four million cubic yards of fill, LAKE PEOSTA was filled with dirt and sand. Packed down and leveled, the former mosquito-infested slough used by criminals and moonshiners became the home for as many as twenty-one industries and 1,308 jobs. Assessed in 1983 at over fifteen million dollars, the area accounted for $563,000 in local property taxes.
The person credited with initiating the Park was John A. Kerper, then a twenty-eight-year member of the Dubuque Dock Board. Kerper proposed the city buy a dredge to fill the swamp near the river. At a ceremony beginning the project, Kerper threw the switch that started the dredge-pumping fill from the MISSISSIPPI RIVER into Lake Peosta. Although Kerper died before completion of the Park, his contributions were remembered in the naming of Kerper Blvd., the four-lane road in the area.
Plans for the industrial use of the area date back to 1850 when proposals were made to extend LAKE PEOSTA, the "western slough," into a canal. If the propositions had proven possible, steamboats would have been able to nearly reach downtown Dubuque. The city gradually bought land from Henry L. STOUT who realized his dream of farmland in the region was doomed because of the sandy unproductive soil. An urgency to develop the area came after WORLD WAR II when large industries nationwide expanded by constructing branch operations in small towns.
In December 1965 a four-hour development seminar on "What Does the Next Half Decade Hold for Dubuque" was sponsored by the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL BUREAU. Attendees from business and government agreed that more effort had to be made informing Dubuque residents on what had been done in industrial development and expansion. In 1965 Dubuque businesses added 800 new employees and spent $40 million in expansion. Despite this Mayor Robert J. HORGAN replied:
The majority of the citizens believe the Industrial Park is not paying off. Joe Citizen is not aware of the progress of the Dubuque Industrial Bureau, the Dubuque Industrial Development Corporation and others in making jobs. (2)
In 1966 at the annual meeting of the Dubuque Industrial Bureau, the acknowledgement was made that Dubuque seriously lacked land suitable for new industry. Only 65 acres of Area B of the industrial park remained at a time when Dubuque led the state in plant expansion. Sinclair Oil Company, already in the community, wanted to expand but needed 600 acres that were not available. (3)
By 1970, twenty-nine plants were located in the park providing jobs for 984 people. The same year, the Dubuque Industrial Bureau reported that taxes, rentals and wharfage fees from the park totaled nearly $340,000--more than three times the annual payment of the bonds sold to create the site. More than 75.5 acres had been sold leaving 30 acres for sale. (4)
In 1995 an outside analyst was hired to examine the Dubuque County Metropolitan Statistical Area. The recommendation of the analyst was to develop industrial property because without it there was no need for a development group. Three primary criteria guided the selection of new sites. First was the proximity of the land to Dubuque so that utilities were accessible and affordable. Second was the identification of a willing seller since the city had never used imminent domain to obtain land. Third was a determination that the site would make a good industrial park given the landscape rock formation, and subsoil of the area. (5)
The City of Dubuque grew by nearly 600 acres on the evening of February 3, 1997. On that evening, the city council approved the annexation requests of Mason City, Iowa developer Wendell Corey for his Asbury Plaza development near the NORTHWEST ARTERIAL and Asbury Road. The council also approved the annexation of three parcels destined for development as INDUSTRIAL PARKS. These included 122 acres at Lake Eleanor Road and US 61/151, 210-acre Dubuque County Farm on Seippel Road, and 155 acres near Old Highway Road and Middle Road. (6)
DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER was the first park developed with the first building constructed in 2001. Construction of the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER SOUTH and DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER WEST followed. (7)
Twelve potential sites for a second industrial park were eventually reduced to three. (8) The location along Radford Road offered a nearby railroad spur, isolation of residential areas, and proximity to the Northwest Arterial. In 1980 the City purchased the 191-acre location, with one hundred acres usable, for $941,000. Grading solved the problem of the hilly terrain. The purposes of the Park were to provide locations for businesses forced to relocate because of the US 61 project, new businesses, and local businesses that wanted to expand.
The five million dollar 236-acre industrial center, owned by DUBUQUE IN-FUTURO, sold its first two lots to the A.Y.MCDONALD MANUFACTURING COMPANY and FROMMELT INDUSTRIES INC. Construction of the Frommelt Industries building began in 1983.
Land acquisition continued. In May 1997 the city stood poised to purchase 151 acres of ground east of the former Dubuque County Farm. With the acquisition of this land, the city purchased 870 acres of land in the first six months of the year. The city also had fifty acres available at its industrial park between Radford Road and the Northwest Arterial, fifty acres near the DUBUQUE REGIONAL AIRPORT, and twenty-five acres along Kerper Blvd. The city's comprehensive plan called for the acquisition of seven hundred acres over the next twenty years. (9)
The City Council in April 2015 purchased 166 acres of farmland off Seippel Road for $2 million. This was the first major investment in land for industrial development since the 1990s. (10)
In July 2015 the City Council agreed to spend $2.12 million for 125 acres of land near the intersection of Middle and Radford road. The land purchased as $17,000 per acre came from the McFadden Family Partnership. (11)
1. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 12, 1892, p. 4
2. Thompson, Dave. "What's Dubuque's Future?" Telegraph-Herald, December 15, 1965, p. 14
3. "Dubuque Problem: Scarcity of Space for Industrial Expansion," Telegraph-Herald, December 15, 1966, p. 1
4. "$340,000 from 'Park," Telegraph Herald, July 20, 1970, p. 3
5. "The Development of Dubuque's Industrial Parks," bizTimes,biz, July 2017, p. 8
6. McDermott, Brad, "City Council Approves Four Annexation Requests, Telegraph Herald, February 4, 1997, p. 2
8. Kraske, Steve. "City Aims to Lure Developers to New Center," Telegraph-Herald Special Section, June 26, 1983, p. 12
9. McDermott, Brad. "City Buys Country for Development," Telegraph Herald, May 7, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970507&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
10. "Dubuque Officials to Consider $2.12 Million Purchase," Telegraph Herald, July 5, 2015, p. 11A