Kearns • At the end of World War II, the U.S. Army Air Force closed Camp Kearns training base, and its northwest corner full of warehouses was converted into an industrial area. But for 73 years, it lacked paved roads — until now.

Officials on Thursday celebrated completion of a $1.9 million project to pave about 1.5 miles of local roads, and predicted it will help attract more industries and jobs to the area.

“It was so decimated,” state Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said about the old Army roads used for decades. “The roads were horrible. Access was horrible.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said that until now, the 40 companies in the area “had to battle bumpy, sometimes muddy roads just to conduct business.” Hutchings said it required a four-wheel drive to get to some safely, and big trucks could not navigate it easily — or often tore up the dirt roads more when they attempted it.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams speaks at a news conference in the warehouse area of the old Camp Kearns Army Air Force Base, as Salt Lake County celebrates the completion of a $1.9 million project to pave roads and increase business opportunities in the area. Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

Not only are those roads now paved, the Kearns Improvement District also upgraded water and sewer service in the area.

“For us, it’s a project to boost local jobs and improve the economy here in Kearns,” McAdams said.

Kearns Metro Township Mayor Kelly Bush said that a new industrial subdivision already is planned for vacant land that now has better access, and several businesses are talking about relocating or expanding.

“We anticipate several new companies will be here shortly,” she said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kearns Township Mayor Kelly Bush speaks at a news conference in the warehouse area of the old Camp Kearns Army Air Force Base, as Salt Lake County celebrates the completion of a $1.9 million project to pave roads and increase business opportunities in the area. Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

"For our community, this is huge,” Hutchings said. “All over Salt Lake County, there are pockets like this — pockets that were just forgotten” and could have a brighter future with a little public investment.

Nabil Joubran with Lusid Technologies, an automotive paint company, said it plans to expand because of the improved access. He said it already has been receiving inquiries about possibly selling vacant land it owns there to others.

Duane Fluckigerm, president of Ready Made Builders Supply, said the paved roads will allow the business park to grow. “Kearns will finally be on the map. This project will put the frosting on the cake after 60 years of dirt, mud and holes.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams speaks at a news conference in the warehouse area of the old Camp Kearns Army Air Force Base, as Salt Lake County celebrates the completion of a $1.9 million project to pave roads and increase business opportunities in the area. Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

Ready Made Builders Supply has been in Kearns since 1964, he said, and now the new roads will make it easier for large trucks to get to his company. “It will increase our business. We will have more customers…. There was a huge cost involved, but it will pay off in the end.”

McAdams said the county and the Kearns Metro Township worked together to try to help boost the community where residents have among the longest commutes to work in the valley, and have relatively poor access to transit.

“This was an area where for a couple million dollars, we could build the tax base and create jobs here where the people are,” he said.

Hutchings said, “Kearns is really starting to feel loved and appreciated.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Eric Hutchings speaks at a news conference in the warehouse area of the old Camp Kearns Army Air Force Base, as Salt Lake County celebrates the completion of a $1.9 million project to pave roads and increase business opportunities in the area. Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.