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Grinnell Pursues Rain Forest Site

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

December 16, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    Grinnell city officials met Tuesday with the group proposing the $180 million indoor rain forest to discuss locating the iconic attraction in the Poweshiek County town of about 9,100 residents.

    Now, a group of city leaders is focusing on possible sites and figuring out how the city can come up with the financial resources to compete with some of the 10 other communities interested in the project, said Bill Menner, executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development and spokesman for the Grinnell group interested in pursuing the rain forest.

    ‘‘When you see towns like Dubuque and Des Moines thrown into the mix, you say, ‘Wow, where does a town of 9,100 fit?’ But then you look at where we are on the map,’’ said Menner, who expects the city to put together a formal bid for the project.

    While Menner said it will be tougher for the town to come up with the $25 million expected from a host site, he believes the town’s location may be an advantage.

    Grinnell is about an hour from Des Moines and Iowa City, in close proximity to Interstate 80 and has more than 2 million people within an 80-mile radius, Menner said.

    Tuesday’s meeting came days after rain forest officials said they would look to other Iowa towns after failing to reach an agreement on a 22-acre site in Coralville, which had been the project’s proposed site since 2000.

    ‘‘We’ve purposefully not pursued it to this point to try to give Coralville and the rain forest people time to work out any differences they might have,’’ Grinnell City Manager Russ Behrens said Thursday.

    While Coralville remains a possibility, discussions with other communities are expected to move rapidly. Three rain forest board members were appointed to a site search committee Tuesday and are expected to review proposals in coming weeks. A final site selection is expected within several weeks.