North West Weber Industrial development could usher in huge growth

Friday , April 28, 2017 - 5:15 AM

CATHY MCKITRICK, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — If all proceeds as planned, vast acreage at the far west end of 12th Street could soon acquire accreditation as a “megasite” for use as a massive industrial park bordering the Great Salt Lake.

According to Michael Flynn, chief operating officer of EDCUtah, a few other states already have megasite programs to spur competition for lucrative, landmark expansion and relocation projects that can bring at least 1,000 jobs or $1 billion in capital expenditure.

“The idea is, we want to identify big tracts of land in Utah that would be good potential homes to large-scale industrial projects,” Flynn said, noting that Weber County is one of about six locations in Utah currently working toward megasite certification.

“Once we get a few sites that meet all the criteria, we’ll figure out how to market them,” Flynn said. “We’ve got the framework for the program but there are still a lot of questions to answer.” About a month ago, EDCUtah assembled a 15-member steering committee to accomplish those tasks.

Douglas Larsen, executive director for Weber Economic Development Partnership, said the proposed megasite known as “North West Weber Industrial” has been in the works for a few years. 

Pointing to the area’s current business hubs, among them the Ogden and Weber Industrial Parks and Business Depot Ogden — Larsen said Weber County lacked a development site in excess of 200 acres. But the first phase of North West Weber Industrial would consist of 930 rail-served acres that offered the potential of 6 million square feet of improvements.

That land, owned by Global Mitigation Specialists LLC, is well-positioned adjacent to the Union Pacific mainline running east to west, allows access to two interstate highways within a 25-mile radius, and is only about an hour’s drive from the Salt Lake International Airport.

“We have inquiries from businesses in need of large acreage sites and we’ve had nothing to offer — until now,” Larsen said. “So we’re looking at promoting North West Weber, and we’re leveraging the 12th Street Corridor project for infrastructure” in terms of power, water, gas and sewer utilities needed for growth.

Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson touted the site’s potential as he spoke to Ogden City Council members during a recent work session on community and economic development.

“That land isn’t necessarily good for agriculture ... but it fits in really well with the overall landscape of what we’re trying to create,” Gibson said. “The state of Utah has created criteria which allows large parcels of land to be designated as a megasite to help in the siting of larger companies. We’re well on our way to receiving accreditation for what we call North West Weber Industrial.”

Following several months of property acquisition, road construction to widen a seven-mile stretch of 12th Street between 4700 West and the Great Salt Lake began in earnest in early 2016 — an ambitious project to roll out in phases as funding permits. With those improvements, Gibson foresees ample opportunity for North West Weber Industrial to flourish.

RELATED: Proposed 12th Street widening in Weber County met with suspicion by residents

Salt Lake City resident Pete Williams, a partner with Global Mitigation Specialists, said their massive property — currently used for cattle grazing — is already drawing interest.

“We’ve shown it several times to people looking for large acreage properties,” Williams said, adding that in its present state, a 200-acre project could launch fairly quickly. “But improved and higher capacity infrastructure will open the door to a lot of business possibilities coming out there.”

Megasite certification does not hinge on full completion of the 12th Street Corridor project, Larsen said.

“We’ll compete better when we have infrastructure stubbed into the front door, but they’re close enough now that if a gigafactory came in ...  we certainly could find the financial pathway to compete that component to open its doors,” Larsen said. 

The two-million square-foot Tesla Battery factory that opened near Sparks, Nevada, was a source of inspiration for Larsen.

The Tesla website says the electric car company broke ground on its gigafactory in June 2014 and expects to reach full lithium ion battery production in 2018.

“Something like that would be perfect for North West Weber,” Larsen said. “To us, there’s no reason why Weber County can’t compete in that space.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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