Wednesday , July 19, 2017 - 5:15 AM
OGDEN — Ogden isn’t the only other site outside Clearfield that’s been considered for a proposed train manufacturing plant that would employ up to 1,000.
Stadler Rail officials are also eyeing a location in Salt Lake City, south of the Salt Lake City International Airport, J.J. Allen, assistant city manager in Clearfield, said Tuesday. Economic development officials in Davis and Salt Lake counties said company officials previously considered sites in Layton and West Jordan as well.
The public debate surrounding Stadler Rail’s proposal to build a plant in Utah has focused largely on Clearfield, adjacent to the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner station in the Davis County city. Local leaders have lobbied hard for the plant, eager for the 1,000 jobs the plant would create over 10 or so years and spinoff economic development, which could ripple across Davis County and beyond.
But a last-minute pitch for the development, while scuttled after it spurred a public outcry over the weekend, emerged from the city of Ogden. The Ogden initiative came together after city reps received indications from state officials that Stadler was still open to alternatives, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said Tuesday.
“They said, ‘Hey, this is still in the game,’” he said.
Ogden officials had spoken with Stadler reps five to six months ago about the possibility of building in the city. But Caldwell said the message local leaders received at the time was that the city was too far from the Salt Lake City airport, beyond the 30-minute travel radius within which Stadler hoped to build.
Then, apparently, the company decided to reconsider its options. Stadler, based in Switzerland, has a $551 million contract to build commuter trains for Caltrain, the northern California rail system, and it hopes to expand its footprint in the United States, beyond the small plant it currently operates in Salt Lake City.
Caldwell said site development costs at the Clearfield location of perhaps $5 million weighed on company officials. The proposed site in Ogden, on a “sliver of land” between Business Depot Ogden and the Golden Spike Event Center and Fairgrounds, has some of the heavy rail infrastructure in place that Stadler needs, which would have minimized start-up costs.
At any rate, Caldwell doesn’t know if the Ogden proposal would have been enough to sway Stadler officials, had it been fully fleshed out. Public clamoring in Ogden stemming from concerns about the potential impact to the Ogden Nature Center, among other things, spurred leaders here to abandon the plans.
‘Narrowed the list of sites’
Days after the dust-up over the Ogden proposal, a Stadler official said Clearfield is in the running, but that the company is still weighing its options, without identifying other potential locations for its planned facility. “I can tell you that we have narrowed the list of sites considerably, and that Clearfield is still on the short list,” Lucy Andre, a spokeswoman at Stadler’s Salt Lake City facility, said in an email Tuesday.
A decision by Stadler could be coming “in the next few weeks,” she said, but the company has “several hoops to jump through... Believe me, no one wants to secure a site and break ground more than we do, but we need to make sure that everything is in place before we can do that.”
Allen, the Clearfield assistant city manager, said Stadler officials told him of their interest in the site by the Salt Lake City airport. They like the spot, said Shawn Beus, economic development manager for the Davis County Community and Economic Development Office, in part because of the short travel time from the airport for the many visitors company officials expect to fly in for business meetings.
Still, Allen and Beus remain hopeful about Clearfield’s chances.
For one thing, it’s within the 30-minute travel radius mentioned by Caldwell.
Plus, the “heavy lifting” of crafting a deal for the sale of UTA land to Clearfield for the proposed Stadler plant is complete, Allen said. The idea of selling the land to Clearfield for subsequent resale to Stadler, probably at a lower cost, had been the focus of intense debate among the UTA Board of Trustees, but the officials last month approved the broad terms of the deal.
What’s more, the Clearfield site meets another Stadler requisite — that the new plant be located near a commuter train station. As a manufacturer of commuter trains, locating near the FrontRunner station would potentially encourage use of the UTA system by employees and highlight the company’s mission of promoting commuter rail use.
Beus noted that Stadler also investigated a site in Layton and he doesn’t begrudge Ogden for its late bid for the Stadler facility, noting “friendly competition” among economic development officials to lure businesses.
Stuart Clason, director of the Salt Lake County Regional Economic Development office, said Stadler also mulled West Jordan. At the same time, he emphasized Salt Lake County government’s philosophy of not pitting Utah cities against each other in economic development efforts.
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