OGDEN – A Japanese food company is considering developing a new $350 million manufacturing facility in far western Weber County, which, if materialized, would create up to 500 new jobs.
It’s not a sure thing. But county officials are optimistic and have begun efforts to create a special area where it will be built to allow them to transfer property tax revenue generated in the area to help develop the project. More specifically, the plan calls for $30 million in Tax Increase Funding, or TIF, to be used to help infrastructure development, money that will be generated over 20 years.
“We’re on the shortlist now. We’re feeling good,” said Weber County Commissioner Gage Froerer. Boise, Idaho, is the other location the company—which officials haven’t yet publicly named—is looking to.
Notably, if development materializes, Froerer and others say it could begin efforts to create a massive new industrial park of about 6,000 acres in the far west of Weber County, a long-term vision to boost the economy. The larger development that includes the 186-acre plot the Japanese company is looking at is called the West Weber Mega Site and it’s off 900 S, the western extension of the 12th Street driveway, about 8,300 W, SW Zirconium.
“We feel this is the starting point,” Fruerer told Weber School District officials at a school board meeting on the topic last month. He was trying to garner support from school officials, who would have to sign off on any proposal to divert TIF funds to the project site.
If the Japanese company ends up in Weber County, allowing the area’s infrastructure to be developed, Fruerer envisions other companies to follow suit. Two or three other companies are also considering projects in the region, although their proposals are still in the early stages.
“It’s changing the face of economic development, not just for Weber County but for Utah,” Fruerer said.
If the Japanese company came along, the wages it would pay would range from $40,000 to $60,000 a year, said Chris Roybal, president of the Northern Utah Economic Coalition, which promotes economic development in Weber and Davis counties. The company is expected to settle into an expansion site within a month and start construction within a year.
By and large, he said, there is a lack of space in northern Utah to place new industrial projects. “This is really an opportunity for Northern Utah to create the next Job Creation Zone for industrial development,” Roypal said, also at the meeting with Weber School District officials last month.
Frurier estimates that $30-40 million is needed to develop the area’s largely undeveloped infrastructure – roads, water lines, sewage system, electricity and natural gas. TIF funds could help with some of these improvements, but first, officials from the Weber Fire District and Weber School District, as well as the district commissioners themselves, will have to sign off on the plans.
As part of the process of allowing TIF funds to be used in the project area, Weber County commissioners approved on December 14 the creation of a Community Reinvestment Area, or CRA, around the site the Japanese company is considering. The land, which extends from the southwest corner where 900 South meets 8,300 West, is currently owned by a subsidiary of Randy Marriott, the developer of Weber County, according to Froerer.
The next step will be to obtain approval from representatives of tax entities with jurisdiction in the region to use TIF funds – property tax revenues generated by the increased value generated by development – in redevelopment plans.
To that end, Weber Fire District President Paul Sullivan said the county board of trustees approved a resolution last month saying “we will tentatively support TIF if it goes forward.” School officials took no formal action when they discussed the matter in a working session on December 17 and district officials have yet to take formal action on TIF funding.
The plan calls for 70% of the property tax revenue generated within the TRA through the new development to be used over a 20-year period to aid redevelopment efforts.
Froerer said Webber County is also considering tapping $10 million to $15 million in U.S. bailout funds to help with redevelopment. Moreover, county officials are talking with state legislators about convincing the state of 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 considering creating a community reinvestment zone around Ogden-Hinckley Airport as part of a proposed upgrade initiative that could cost up to $1 billion.