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Ogden leaders pursuing plans to invest perhaps $1B to upgrade airport

By Tim Vandenack - | Dec 17, 2021

Image supplied, City of Ogden

The yellow lines pictured encompass Ogden-Hinckley Airport and represent the boundaries of a proposed community reinvestment area. The CRA, if ultimately created, would allow for use of property tax revenue to help with a series of massive airport upgrades envisioned by city leaders.

OGDEN — Ogden leaders are pursuing a series of massive upgrades to Ogden-Hinckley Airport stretching years into the future that could cost north of $1 billion.

“The airport is kind of in a window of opportunity,” said Mark Johnson, chief administrative officer for the City of Ogden — the airport owner. That is, with the surge of activity in the aerospace industry in and around Hill Air Force Base, the Ogden airport is poised to serve as a spillover facility to accommodate development of that sort, creating jobs and bolstering the local economy.

Things are in the preliminary stage. For now, city officials are pursuing creation of a community reinvestment area encompassing the airport that would allow use of certain property tax funds to help redevelop the site. The Ogden school board, Weber County commissioners and the Central Weber Sewer Improvement District have signed off on the plans, allowing use of property tax funds generated by new airport development in the airport plans. The airport is inside the three taxing entities’ boundaries and also within Ogden city limits.

The Ogden City Council, however, has yet to act. Officials from Ogden’s Community and Economic Development office are in the process of drafting the documents necessary to create the community reinvestment area, or CRA. Johnson expects they will go to city leaders early in 2022.

“I think we’re close and that it will be happening soon,” he said. Creation of the CRA would enable officials to tap property tax funds generated by new development in the airport grounds for the airport project, a schematic called tax increment financing.

Though city leaders have yet to formally act, details have been coming out. Ogden economic development officials and Johnson addressed the Ogden school board on the matter last year. Weber County commissioners and the Central Weber Sewer Improvement District board of trustees took up the issue of CRA creation earlier this year.

In addressing school officials at a school board meeting last year, Brandon Cooper, deputy director of Ogden’s Business Development Office, indicated he envisions an investment of perhaps $1 billion or more in the airport. The presentation to school reps indicated a development timeframe extending to 2038.

Some $300 million to $400 million would be needed for infrastructure upgrades, Cooper told school officials, according to video of the meeting. What’s more, he foresees an increase in the facility’s taxable value owing to new investment brought on by the initiative of about $760 million, from around $135 million to $895 million. Add the numbers and the potential investment ranges from $1.06 billion to $1.16 billion.

“Hopefully, private investment is most of that,” Johnson said.

He expects Federal Aviation Administration and city funds would be tapped. Tax increment financing would potentially generate another $108 million or so over 25 years, the proposed tax increment period. Of that, $68.6 million would come from property taxes otherwise earmarked for the Ogden School District, around $17 million each would be funneled from the City of Ogden and Weber County and $5.4 million would come from the sewer district.

The $108 million represents property tax revenue on new development, above and beyond property tax funding the governmental units already receive and would continue receiving. Such public funding, Cooper said, is vital when trying to lure private developers.

As for the specific improvements, Cooper said the infrastructure — water, sewer and power — needs to be expanded and extended so more of the airport property can be used, perhaps as space for new companies. Developing vacant land, he said at last year’s school board meeting, “represents the biggest opportunity at the airport.”

He also envisions improvements to the airport’s runways and taxiway.

“This is the largest proposal that I think we’ve undertaken,” Tom Christopulos, director of the business development office, told school officials. “The thing that’s driving this is the growth of aerospace in our region.”

Cooper said the Ogden airport could help support projects based at Hill Air Force Base, citing two initiatives already in the works. “There are things that are happening now that we need to prepare the airport to accommodate,” he said.

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