Japanese food company mulling $350M Weber County development
OGDEN — A Japanese food company is mulling development of a new $350 million manufacturing facility in far western Weber County, which, if it materializes, would create up to 500 new jobs.
It’s not a sure thing. But county officials are optimistic and they’ve started efforts to create a special district where it would be built allowing them to funnel property tax revenue generated in the area to aid in project development. More specifically, the plan calls for use of $30 million in tax increment finance, or TIF, funding to help with infrastructure development, money that would be generated over 20 years.
“We’re right now on the short list. We feel pretty good,” Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer said. Boise, Idaho, is the other location the company — which officials aren’t yet publicly naming — is eyeing.
Notably, if the development materializes, Froerer and others say it could jump-start efforts to create a massive new industrial park measuring some 6,000 acres in far western Weber County, long a vision of economic boosters. The larger development encompassing the 186-acre plot the Japanese firm is eyeing is called the West Weber Mega Site and it sits off 900 South, the western continuation of the 12th Street corridor, around 8300 West, just east of Western Zirconium.
“We feel this is the starting point,” Froerer told Weber School District officials at a school board meeting on the topic last month. He was trying to drum up support from school officials, who would have to sign off on any proposal to funnel TIF money to the project site.
If the Japanese firm ends up coming to Weber County, allowing for development of the infrastructure of the area, Froerer envisions other firms following suit. Two or three other companies are also mulling projects in the area, though their proposals are in the more preliminary stages.
“It really changes the face of economic development, for not only Weber County but the state of Utah,” Froerer said.
Chris Roybal, president of the Northern Utah Economic Alliance, which promotes economic development in Weber and Davis counties, said if the Japanese firm comes, the wages it pays would range from $40,000 to $60,000 a year. He expects the company to settle on an expansion site within a month and start construction within a year.
Significantly, he said there’s a shortage of space in Northern Utah to place new industrial developments. “This is really Northern Utah’s opportunity to create the next job-creation area for industrial development,” Roybal said, also at the meeting with Weber School District officials last month.
Froerer estimates some $30 million to $40 million is needed to develop the infrastructure of the largely undeveloped area — that is, the roads, water lines, sewer system, electricity grid and natural gas network. TIF money could help with some of those improvements, but first, officials from the Weber Fire District and Weber School District, in addition to county commissioners themselves, would have to sign off on the plans.
As part of the process to allow use of TIF funds in the project area, Weber County commissioners on Dec. 14 approved creation of a community reinvestment area, or CRA, around the site the Japanese firm is considering. The land, which extends out from the southwest corner of where 900 South meets 8300 West, is currently owned by a firm affiliated with Randy Marriott, a Weber County developer, according to Froerer.
The next step would be getting approval from representatives of the taxing entities with jurisdiction in the area to use the TIF money — property tax revenue generated by the increased value brought on by development — in the redevelopment plans.
To that end, Paul Sullivan, chief of the Weber Fire District, said the district’s board of trustees approved a resolution last month saying “we would tentatively support the TIF if it moved forward.” School officials took no formal action when they discussed the matter at a Dec. 17 work session and county officials have yet to take formal action on TIF funding.
The plan calls for use of 70% of the property tax revenue generated within the CRA by new development over 20 years to assist in redevelopment efforts.
Weber County is also considering tapping $10 million to $15 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help with redevelopment, Froerer said. Furthermore, county officials are talking with state lawmakers about getting the state to pitch in some of the ARPA money it received from the feds. ARPA is the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package approved last spring.
Separately, officials in the City of Ogden are mulling creation of a community reinvestment area around Ogden-Hinckley Airport as part of a proposed upgrade initiative that could cost up to $1 billion.