Oquirrh Mountains No Longer a Geographical Boundary for Industrial and Commercial Growth

Last April, Airgas Inc. announced it would build a specialty gas production facility in Tooele County. 

Then in May, outdoor retailer Cabela's broke ground for a 600,000 square-foot regional distribution hub in the Ninigret Depot, an industrial park on Tooele's west side. The distribution center will handle freight and product shipping to the outfitter's 54 U.S. stores in North America.

As industrial development intensifies along the Wasatch Front and available land is consumed, companies are looking past the Oquirrh Mountains to the wide open spaces and shovel-ready infrastructure in Tooele County.

"The Oquirrh Mountains used to be a geographical boundary for us, but not anymore," says County Commissioner Shawn Milne. "It takes less time for me to drive downtown or to the Sugarhouse area from where I live in Tooele City than it did when I lived in Sandy. Our industrial commercial and developments are closer to the Salt Lake metro area than most people realize."

In addition to plentiful land, Milne says companies find they can easily operate from Tooele County because they have quick access to the I-80 east-west corridor, 30-minute access to the Salt Lake International Airport, 35-minute access to downtown Salt Lake City and the I-15 north-south and I-84 east corridors, and convenient intermodal access.

What's more, land prices, by the acre or square foot, are cheaper than in the Salt Lake Valley, he adds. Tooele City, Grantsville City and Tooele County also offer economic development incentives packages for industrial development, thus enhancing the area's attraction for development.

Milne notes that approximately 40 to 60 percent of the county's workforce commutes to the Salt Lake metro area for work, "but they would love to have jobs closer to home. We have a large, readily available workforce," he says.

Wal-Mart questioned the size and capability of that workforce 11 years ago, before opening its massive distribution center near Grantsville, according to Milne, but the county's workforce exceeded Wal-Mart's expectations in terms of capability, work ethic and the number of people available to fill the jobs.

A similar scenario played out when Cabela's decided to open its distribution center in Tooele County, he continues. The company was operating out of a temporary location in the former Reckitt Benckiser building in the Miller Business Park because it wanted to try out the county's workforce before investing in a new facility. "As we did with Wal-Mart, our workforce exceeded Cabela's expectations in terms of dependability, dedication, loyalty and aptitude," says Milne.

Tooele County features four major industrial developments, the Ninigret Depot, Peterson Industrial Depot, Miller Business Park and an industrial area north of Grantsville City. Ninigret and Peterson Depots grew from a portion of the Tooele Army Depot that the U.S. military vacated as part of the Base Realignment and Closure effort. Commercial interests opened the Utah Industrial Depot in the space vacated by the military, which was sold to Ninigret Group, a commercial developer in the Salt Lake Valley. Ninigret subsequently sold half of its interests in the Utah Industrial Depot to developer Roger Peterson, owner of Utah Fabrication, which is a heavy steel fabrication company that has been a Utah Industrial Depot tenant since 2000. Peterson acquired most of the established buildings and created the Peterson Industrial Depot. Meanwhile, Ninigret Group kept most of the developable ground within the former Tooele Army Depot.

Ninigret Depot Managing Director Randy Abood says Tooele County is a natural fit for companies looking for developable land. At full build-out, the combined industrial area comprised by the Depot and Peterson Industrial could support as many as 2,300 workers. Existing buildings within Ninigret offer more than 2.3 million square feet of space while more than 810 acres of land are available for development. Some 60 tenants currently operate from the Depot, including Detroit Diesel, the Utah Transit Authority, Utah Fabrication and Tooele City School District.

"Industrial space in Salt Lake County is becoming scarce and Tooele County is the next outgrowth for industrial development," he adds.

The Miller Business Park is located in an enterprise zone between Tooele City and Grantsville City, next door to the Miller Motor Sports Park. The business park, which comprises about 900 acres of developable land, was designed as a build-to-suit location for big box distribution, manufacturing and motor sports companies.

Milne notes that Stericycle made the decision to move its facility from North Salt Lake to a remote location near U.S. Magnesium and Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, which are both located north and west of Grantsville in Tooele County. He says other developments are in the works, but are not ready to be announced. Meanwhile, Grantsville has aggressive plans for a large industrial area near the city and is actively marketing it. The site is close to I-80 and also offers a rail spur.

With shovel-ready infrastructure already in place in the Ninigret Depot, existing buildings available in Peterson Industrial Depot and plenty of available land, Tooele County is ripe for commercial and industrial expansion. Milne and Abood believe it's the perfect location for manufacturers and distributors.

Abood adds that national and international companies are looking at the Ninigret Depot and future announcements could be made regarding new tenants.