Business Depot Ogden continues to grow ahead of schedule

Monday , October 31, 2016 - 5:00 AM

OGDEN — It’s been almost 20 years since the federal government gave 1,118 acres of land to the city of Ogden. And in those two decades, a public-private partnership has taken what was once called Defense Depot Ogden and transformed it into a successful master-planned business park — called Business Depot Ogden.

Back in 1997, courtesy of the military’s Base Realignment and Closure process, the DDO land was conveyed to the city at no cost. Following a request-for-proposals process, the city entered into a long-term development agreement with the Boyer Company, a Salt Lake City-based real estate development firm.

To hear both sides of this public-private partnership tell it, the agreement has been a win-win situation.

“It’s been a good deal for Boyer, and it’s been a good deal for Ogden,” said Blake Wahlen, BDO general manager. “The city was concerned it would be a drain on resources, but this has exceeded expectations. We’ve far exceeded our timetable.”

By agreement, Boyer was to have developed 106 acres in the business park by the end of 2014, and 242 acres by 2034, according to Wahlen. But when three new buildings open on the northern end of the complex next year, there will be 320 total acres of new development in BDO.

“We’ve added $242 million in new construction out here,” Wahlen said.

Tom Christopulos, director of community and economic development for the city, says Business Depot Ogden has been recognized both nationally and internationally for its successes. In 2012, the project received an award from the International Economic Development Council for being one of the top public-private ventures in the world.

“It’s been kind of a model that’s being used in other places,” Christopulos said. “We’re 20 years ahead of schedule, and we’re that far ahead in revenue projections. It’s as near a perfect project as I’ve ever been involved in.”

Out of the original 1,118 acres given to the city, only 248 acres remain to be developed today. Wahlen said there is currently a 98-percent occupancy rate in the new buildings Boyer has added, while in the original DDO buildings that figure is 86 percent — though three years ago it was at 65-percent occupancy, and it has been as high as 95 percent.

Wahlen said BDO is probably 15 years from filling the vacant acreage in the park. After that, some of the older buildings will begin to reach their lifetime and will be demolished.

“So we’re here for another 55-plus years, developing BDO,” Wahlen said.

The mix at BDO, according to Wahlen, is about 70 percent warehouse distribution and 30 percent manufacturing.

Wahlen insists that, even through the economic downturn of the last few years, BDO has remained vibrant.

“We’ve done well, even through the down cycle,” he said.

A few companies, like Petersen Inc. and ICON Fitness, pulled out of some of their space at BDO, but by and large occupancy rates have remained high.

“Economically, for us, we’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Cameron Cook, BDO project manager. “The market in general has come back strong.”

So then, what’s the secret to the business park’s success? Cook says part of it is the ability to be all things to all businesses.

“A lot of it is the flexibility BDO offers,” he said. “You’ve got cheap old spaces available, along with new buildings and open land.”

Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for the city of Ogden, says it’s this variety of offerings that has made BDO so attractive.

“We’ve even had some companies start in the older buildings and move into the new areas,” Johnson said.

Cook also credits two convenient access points to Interstate 15, as well as the available rail spurs in the business park.

Since 2001, BDO has added 3.6 million square feet of business space, and there is currently another million square feet under construction. The Boyer Company is erecting three build-to-suit warehouses on the north end of BDO, which will be occupied by Readerlink, The Home Depot, and Honeyville Inc.

Tyler Christensen is chief strategy officer for Brigham City-based Honeyville Inc., a leader in food ingredients for baking and storage. They’re shooting for a July 2017 opening in BDO, and Christensen said it was that timetable that impressed his company.

“There’s a tremendous relationship between the city of Ogden and Boyer, and they understand the need to react quickly and accurately to a business’ needs,” he said.

Christensen said Honeyville chose BDO based on the speed with which they could get their new warehouse built, up and running.

“When we got down to the final two sites, ultimately the reason we chose the Ogden site was that we had greater confidence they would be able to respond in the time frame we needed,” Christensen said.

Johnson said the city took out $12 million in bonds to pay for improvements to infrastructure in BDO, and that’s what sets it apart from competitors — a top-notch infrastructure already in place. The $12 million bond has since been paid off with tax increment money from the project, according to Johnson.

Christopulos said BDO’s infrastructure allows them to concentrate on putting up buildings for companies.

“We can go almost immediately to vertical construction,” he said. “We can get a building up in 9 months to a year — sometimes less than that.”

Indeed, Christopulos says the city has a fast-track system that can expedite the building process even further.

Brett Fisher, with Kenco Group, said his company has been in BDO since it opened. The third-party logistics company, based in Tennessee, has been around since 1950.

“Simply put, the best thing about BDO is the flexibility — and the relationships with our landlords,” Fisher said. “They’re just fantastic to work with, and the buildings are attractive for what we do.”

The Standard-Examiner is among the roughly 120 businesses currently housed at BDO. These businesses represent everything from the 1,000-employee Wayfair LLC warehouse to the one-man Mobius Cycling.

“It’s a guy who leases a room smaller than this,” Cook said of the latter, motioning to the small board room in which he sits.

Wahlen said those 120 businesses represent just shy of 6,000 employees in BDO currently.

“We’re headed for 7,000 jobs out there,” Johnson said. “And these are great jobs with great companies.”

Wahlen said a milestone came about five years ago when BDO hit 3,000 employees — exceeding the number of people employed when DDO closed.

Johnson said the city and Boyer take a 50-50 split of the rents collected — after expenses. But the real payoff will come in 2019 when the Redevelopment Agency agreement for BDO expires.

“That means probably $3 million more to Ogden School District and a million or two to Ogden City. And Weber County will enjoy the same amount as the city,” Johnson said.

Both Christopulos and Johnson said they’re pleased with the number of jobs at BDO and how far ahead of the plan it is.

“I wish that every project we ever undertook would do the same,” Christopulos said.

“It really is a bright spot for Ogden, a shining star,” Johnson added. “I don’t think I’d change anything out there. It’s going better than we’d hoped or expected, so there’s nothing I’d change.”

Johnson then pondered his last comment, and quickly added: “Other than more land.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

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