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Land of Opportunity
As industrial development intensifies in Salt Lake County and space becomes scarce, companies are increasingly looking beyond the shadow of the Oquirrh Mountains to Tooele County, the new Mecca for industrial development.
A string of recent announcements highlights this trend. In April, Airgas Inc. announced it would build a specialty gas production facility in Tooele County. 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.
What’s the big draw to Tooele County? Wide open spaces, lots of available land, shovel-ready infrastructure and a strong transportation grid.
Room to Grow
The Salt Lake Valley is bounded by the Oquirrh Mountains, the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake. It’s essentially landlocked. “The land base is definitely eroding,” says Mike Farmer, executive director and industrial specialist for Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce. He says there are only a few sites in the valley large enough for industrial development, “and with each deal that goes down, opportunity is lost.”
On the other hand, land is plentiful in Tooele County. Not only that—but it’s also much cheaper. Farmer says industrial land in Tooele is less than half the price of similar parcels in Salt Lake.
Currently, there are three major industrial developments in Tooele County. After the military exited from a large portion of the Tooele Army Depot, the property came under the control of a redevelopment agency. Commercial interests opened the Utah Industrial Depot in the space vacated by the military. That was later sold to Ninigret Group, a developer with considerable success in the Salt Lake Valley. Ninigret cleaved off half of its interests in the depot to another developer, Roger Peterson, who owns Utah Fabrication, a heavy steel fabrication company and depot tenant since 2000. Peterson acquired most of the established buildings in the depot and created the Peterson Industrial Depot, while Ninigret Group kept most of the developable ground.
Meanwhile, Miller Business Park is located across the street from Miller Motor Sports Park in an enterprise zone between Tooele City and Grantsville. The park comprises about 900 acres of developable land. It was designed for build-to-suit for big box distribution, manufacturing and motor sports uses.
Other developments are in the works as well. Shawn Milne, Tooele County commissioner, says Grantsville has aggressive plans for a large industrial area north of the city and is actively marketing it to businesses and developers.
Infrastructure is a key piece of the puzzle for developers, and Farmer says Tooele is in a good position when it comes to electrical infrastructure.
Ninigret Depot is considered a “hidden gem” in some circles because it already has infrastructure in place. The depot features more than 2.3 million square feet of building space and more than 810 acres of land. Currently, about 60 tenants operate from the depot, including Detroit Diesel, Utah Transit Authority, Utah Fabrication and Tooele City School District.
Peter Corroon, Ninigret Depot’s managing director, says national and international companies are looking at Ninigret Depot and future announcements could be made regarding new tenants in the near future.
At full build-out, Ninigret Depot and Peterson Industrial Depot are projected to house as many as 2,300 workers. “Tooele County is the next natural place to start developing,” Corroon says. “Industrial space in Salt Lake County is becoming scarce and Tooele County is the next outgrowth for industrial development.”
The Magic 10 Miles
Companies find they can operate from Tooele County and 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 easy intermodal access.
Milne notes that Tooele County is closer to the Salt Lake metro area than most people realize. The geographical boundary of the Oquirrh Mountains used to cast a shadow in some people’s eyes, he says, but it actually takes less time for Milne to get downtown or to the Sugar House area from where he lives in Tooele City than it did when he lived in Sandy.
And new transportation projects are underway. A new road was built to Ninigret Depot, allowing trucks entering and exiting the depot to have more direct access to SR-36 and I-80.
Future transportation plans include construction of the Midvalley Highway from SR-36 in Tooele City to a new interchange near I-80. The highway will be built in three phases and will eventually place the Ninigret and Peterson Industrial Depots within what Milne calls the “magic 10 miles” to major highway access.