Expansion project underway to double Parr’s Moline footprint

Ground-breaking launches $22.5 million project

Paar Instrument Company CEO Jim Nelson is joined by Moline leaders at a groundbreaking for a $22.5 million expansion. CREDIT KENDA BURROWS

The $22.5 million project to double the size of Parr Instrument Company hit high gear after a ceremonial groundbreaking last Friday on a building site next door to the 125-year-old company’s existing east-end Moline location.

“It’s an exciting day for Parr Instrument Company and for the city of Moline as well,” Parr President and CEO Jim Nelson told a large crowd gathered on a windy April 12 afternoon to celebrate the launch of construction of the hard-fought and long-awaited expansion.

Mr. Nelson invited leaders from Parr, the city and the project’s builder and architect to toss shovels of dirt near the construction-ready site of the two-phase project. The work begins with construction of a new 53,500-square-foot building that will double Parr’s footprint.

Jim Nelson, president and CEO of Parr Instrument Co. poses by a photo of the company’s original Moline location. It was demolished to make way for a $22.5 million expansion project. CREDIT KENDA BURROWS

Once complete, phase two will get underway. It involves remodeling large parts of the existing building Parr has outgrown at 211 53rd St., Moline. The entire project is being built by Davenport-based Russell and designed by Legat Architects, Inc. with offices in Moline.

“This year is our 125th anniversary so this is a great way to celebrate,” Mr. Nelson added. “There are few companies founded as early as 1899 that are still in business, let alone a company of our size. We are only 51 years younger than the city of Moline.”

To get that site ready for construction, Parr had to buy several neighboring properties. It also demolished a handful of old structures including the brick Moline Body Co. building.

Rooted in history

That building also was the site of the company’s first Moline home. “Back in 1925, we were called the Standard Calorimeter Company,” Mr. Nelson said, pointing to a photograph of that now demolished old business displayed on the wall of Parr’s existing building. “That was our historic discovery when we were tearing down the old building. It’s a neat piece of our history and represents a little bit of Parr’s past,” he added.

That history also is important to Moline, city leaders said.

Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati speaks at the Friday, April 12, 2024 Parr Instrument Co. groundbreaking. CREDIT QUAD CITIES CHAMBER

“I think it’s no secret that Moline is rooted in its manufacturing past. Our founders recognized the benefits of being here and, of course, we have longtime companies continuing to notice the benefits of being located here,” Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said at Friday’s groundbreaking.

“Generations later, we are privileged to have manufacturers like Parr recommitting to that legacy with this unique and significant expansion.”

City Administrator Bob Vitas added, “I feel great about what’s about to happen on this particular site for this particular company.”

What’s coming next for the historic and innovative company is an expansion project designed to prepare Parr to continue to meet the needs of the present and the future.

“Parr Instrument Company is more relevant today than ever,” Mr. Nelson said. “Our contribution to research performed globally only continues to grow whether it’s in chemistry, material science, energy, nutrition, defense, the list goes on and on.”

He said the company’s “willingness and ability to customize our equipment to fit our customers’ research needs around the world”  have helped Parr provide “solutions for the world’s most complex problems.”

Challenges significant

The company has known for years it needed more room and it has worked with the city to make it happen. Those talks were often challenging, company and city leaders acknowledged. And the challenges at the site were long-standing, significant and difficult to resolve.

“Why would they want to stay here, with all the flooding and concerns they had for their multi-million expansion?” Mr. Vitas said Friday. 

So the two sides “started a dialogue that was a love-love relationship, then a love-hate relationship and a love-love relationship,” he said, adding, “We got to actually be friends.”

As a result of those discussions, the city worked with IMEG Corp. engineers to find a solution to neighborhood flooding. Moline also created a new Eastgate Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to incentivize the development. And city staff worked with Parr to obtain the right-of-way it needed and helped the company deal with electrical challenges.

Mr. Nelson thanked Moline leaders including Renew Moline CEO Alex Elias. “We’ve proven that great things can happen when private enterprise and government work together.”

Mr. Vitas and Ms. Rayapati also thanked Ms. Elias for facilitating sometimes difficult conversations and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce’s Christine Caves and Julie Forsythe for working with the city and Parr to make the project happen.

Ms. Rayapati also singled out city staff for “always trying to get to a ‘yes’. That’s a compliment I’ve heard said of our staff and I’m so proud that they try to get to a ‘yes’ with all of the partners they work with.”

A big payoff for QCs

The project is a win not only for Parr but for the Quad Cities community. According to Ms. Caves, the chamber’s vice president of business and economic growth, the total economic impact of the Parr expansion is $80,309,923. That’s based on retaining the current workforce as well as the the new investment in the building expansion and remodeling. 

The Parr project also is both critical and overdue, the parties said.

“This project has been in the planning stages for a while now and we have managed to overcome site challenges up to this groundbreaking,” Mr. Nelson added. “Our employees can attest we got the most out of our physical space we’ve been living but it’s time to give ourselves a little more elbow room.”

That’s because, he said, “Our business has grown, our products have grown in size, our team is growing. I’m excited for our new employees to have a new home to do what they do best. None of this infrastructure can make us successful without the talents and work ethic of our people.”

Mr. Nelson thanked Parr’s 100-plus employees, the company’s board of directors and  shareholders for their efforts to grow Parr and those who helped the project get to this point. 

“When completed we will have facilities that reflect our world-class reputation and a welcoming space for collaborating with our customers and dealers from around the world.” 

Matt Rebro, vice president of Russell, who is in charge of the project, lauded the legacy company and said he is excited to help it with this major expansion.

“I can’t wait to see the pride upon the faces of the staff as they take over a facility that mirrors the high-class, high-quality instruments that Parr Instrument Company delivers around the world.”

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