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Salt Lake County pledges aid to two economic ventures

Published September 11, 2012 6:34 pm

Developments • Tax-increment financing to assist warehouses, supplier of rare gases.
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Salt Lake County is putting its financial support behind two west-side economic development projects.

The biggest commitment is to participate with West Valley City in creating an Economic Development Area (EDA) to help transform 960 acres of "wasteland" into an industrial park with giant warehouses and light manufacturing operations.

Private developers are expected to invest $340 million in the facility, which would cover a heretofore hard-to-develop stretch of soggy lake bottom from 5600 West to 7200 West between 2100 South and roughly 3100 South. The county and other taxing entities, primarily West Valley City and Granite School District, have agreed to fund almost $45 million in assistance to install infrastructure.

Salt Lake County's share would be about $7 million.

The second project involves designating Praxair Inc.'s plant northwest of Magna as a Community Development Area (CDA).

The designation makes the company, which supplies rare gases to manufacturers, eligible for tax breaks on equipment upgrades expected to exceed $25 million.

Both designations involve providing tax-increment financing to developers. That means taxing entities, such as the county, agree that for a certain number of years they will turn back to the companies part of the additional tax revenues generated by new business from the projects.

For the West Valley City EDA, the county will surrender 90 percent of its new property taxes for 15 years.

Project consultant Jonathan Springmeyer told the County Council on Tuesday that two companies — Freeport West Industrial Properties and Millrock Capital LC — are lined up to participate.

Freeport West owns 7.3 million square feet of industrial space in Salt Lake County and Clearfield. It would build warehouses of 300,000 to 700,000 square feet, Springmeyer said. Millrock would erect smaller buildings that could be interconnected.

Jeff Edwards, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah, concurred with Springmeyer that the projects will have widespread economic benefits.

"This is a unique opportunity for the highest and best use of the land. Without public involvement, it's not going to happen," Edwards said. "Two developers will create [business ventures] we just don't have in this market right now — large-scale distribution. ... This will be a great addition to what we're selling."

Springmeyer said the project would create or retain about 2,500 jobs.

The Praxair CDA will add seven to 12 new jobs to the 55 now provided at company operations on the northern tip of the Oquirrh Mountains.

But Greg Sweeney, Praxair's executive director of development in North America, earlier told the council that other companies would be enticed to set up shop in Salt Lake County because his firm would be able to supply rare gases such as krypton and neon.

"There isn't an industry we don't touch," he said, citing existing clients such as Kennecott Copper and U.S. Magnesium. "We're a building block that companies require."

mikeg@sltrib.comTwitter: @sltribmikeg