In a project that reportedly drew national competition among developers, the Toro Co. said Monday that it will partner with Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies to build a new distribution center near Des Moines.

The $1.9 billion Bloom- ington-based provider of turf and landscape maintenance equipment and irrigation systems said the new Ankeny, Iowa, facility will ultimately replace operations in Lakeville and Beatrice, Neb. In Lakeville, Toro employs about 20 people, most of whom are contractors, said Toro spokesman Branden Happel.

"Those impacted in both Lakeville and Beatrice could have the opportunity to apply for positions at the new facility," he said in an e-mail.

He declined to disclose how much is being invested in the facility.

Toro will lease the new 450,000-square-foot distribution center from Ryan once construction is completed later this year, an arrangement that is increasingly popular with big companies looking to spend money on their business as opposed to real estate.

The new location in Ankeny, Iowa, will primarily distribute Toro and Exmark-branded residential and landscape contractor turf maintenance equipment to distributors, dealers and Home Depot stores in the United States and Canada. The products are largely produced at Toro's manufacturing facilities in Windom, Minn., and Beatrice.

Ankeny was chosen largely due to its location near several major highways, including Interstates 35 and 80, said Casey Hankinson, Ryan's vice president of development.

He noted that Ryan also built Toro's distribution center in Tomah, Wis., in 2010. "We competed against several strong teams for the Iowa opportunity," he noted.

In a news release, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad noted Toro will create "20 high-quality jobs with this distribution center, jobs that could have gone somewhere else."

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752