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Land deal results in huge profits for developers

Bert Dalmer of The Des Moines Register analyzed land records to uncover an insider land deal that makes big-name developers rich but ends with taxpayers paying twice as much. The operators of a struggling scale-model air show sold 84 acres along Interstate Highway 35 at $15,000 an acre, though other land being sold in the area was going for almost twice that much or more. The land was sold to two developers who had helped bring the air show to central Iowa and who had appointed some of the directors who approved the sale. "The investigation showed that the the nonprofit expo benefited from tax breaks and government loans it would never fully repay for six years." The investigation also found that the state of Iowa last year bought seven acres of the former expo property at $130,000 an acre, a price that amounted to an 866 percent profit for the developers, in a transaction never debated publicly.

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