Colliers, the marketing company representing Salina’s Industrial Park, recently completed an extensive survey on the properties and provided an analysis and business attraction initiative package to the Salina City Mayor and Council. The study was paid for by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition and it emphasized that the strengths of the Industrial Park are the existing infrastructure and highway access, but there is a lack of available buildings, a very tight workforce, and very limited new and existing housing to support a growing workforce.
Ross McClintock, Colliers Associate, worked with Greg Healy, Senior Vice President and John Krueger, on the study and has been representing Salina’s Industrial Park for the past three years. In that time, he has assisted with the sale of Mom’s Café, the new Maverik on I-70, the sale of 17 acres near the Industrial Park to an investor, and most recently the sale of 560 acres to a development firm in Salt Lake City.
The huge land sale will be developed by a group of entities, with 450 acres by Mountain West Capitol LLC, and remaining acreage by View 70 at Salina. Though no plans are definite at this point and no permits have been issued, changes will be coming within the next 12-18 months near Love’s and the TA truck stop.
“We’ve got a number of things cooking with the city and some big things in the works but this study by the Seven Country Infrastructure Coalition will be a really good tool as the city moves forward. It qualified what we were thinking and took into consideration what the citizens really want. We can do all we can, but if the community doesn’t buy in, what good are we doing?” said McClintock.
He said that Salina is an ‘old city’ and noted the average age is almost double what Utah’s average is. This translates into the fact that young adults leave after growing up here as available jobs, housing, and other amenities aren’t feasible as incentives enough to return home to raise families here. Studies throughout the community have indicated that this is something most citizens would like to see changed, as many parents noted their desires to have something for their kids to return and enjoy the community they grew up in, while making a living and having a sustainable lifestyle here.
The Colliers study noted that for a considerably rural community, the average household income in Salina is remarkably high, thanks in part to nearby mining operations. Major employers in the area include Barney Trucking, Sufco Mine and Robinson Transport. The 2019 unemployment rate came in at just 3.5 percent.
It emphasized that Salina’s rural geography poses the greatest challenge in getting larger tenants to come to the industrial park. Areas with closer proximity to larger populations have better support for last-mile fulfillment, which requires a larger pool of employees in the immediate area (500–1,500 for larger ecommerce facilities). The Salina Industrial Park is best suited for light manufacturing, regional distribution centers and cross-docking product for companies that are traversing the I-70 corridor and need a convenient place to stop before or after crossing the Rocky Mountains.
I-70 (a major transportation thoroughfare) splits off I-15 about 56 miles west of Salina. I-15 starts in Southern California and spans 176 miles north through Salt Lake City and Idaho all the way to the Canadian border. Goods traveling from ports and warehouses in Southern California travel through Salina on their way to Denver and beyond until I-70 eventually terminates in Baltimore, Maryland.
With such a large volume of traffic passing through Salina, the community has developed a hub for trucking and transportation. Several gas stations, fast food restaurants and convenience stores line both sides of I-70 near the State Route 89 offramp in Salina, providing motorists with plenty of options for fueling up before the roughly seven-hour drive over the Rocky Mountains into Denver. Various other service providers, such as truck repair, tires, travel-friendly restaurants and midgrade motels, line State Route 89 to support travelers on their journeys.
The motels in Salina also house visitors who come to town for equestrian and other regional outdoor events. For a community as small as Salina, the Blackhawk Arena boasts over 300 events annually, bringing tourism dollars to the community and overflowing the motels.
Over the past ten years, most of Utah’s economic growth has happened along the Wasatch Front, with economic activity less robust in the rural parts of the state that rely on more traditional industries such as mining and agriculture.
Across the United States, that is changing, as the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how people work, shop, and even how they live. These changes have given a major boost to rural locations that provide connectivity to larger regions, but still offer a quieter, more family-friendly lifestyle like Salina. The Salina Industrial Park has the potential to compliment the existing community and solidify its reputation as a place where people want to live and recreate.
Considering Salina’s workforce capabilities and existing infrastructure strengths such as water, sewer, fiber optic services and electricity, Colliers recommended third party logistics providers such as XPO Logistics and JB. Hunt, highly automated manufacturing such as manufactured home and automotive supplier facilities, data centers such as Switch or Digital Realty, tourism related businesses that will utilize proximity to the national and state parks, and organically grown business that are looking to expand.
Marketing the site and strengths of the area will be critical in procuring new businesses and expansion within the park. Colliers recommended outreach materials used should use language that targets the previously mentioned business recommendations and social media posts, and email campaigns should target site selection consultants or real estate brokers who are hired by large businesses to evaluate locations across the country.
“It was important for me to hear that there is a place for us to tell our story, and that we do have an important story to tell, we just need to make the effort,” said Nash.
Incentives play another important role in expansion at the Industrial Park. According to the report, companies have dozens of options when looking for an expansion site, and they spend anywhere from $150-$500 per square foot when expanding into a new space. This increases local property taxes and brings new annual payroll to the community. Incentives should be designed to share the burden of those costs and increase the chances of success. Currently the State of Utah has options such as the TIF tax, workforce recruitment efforts, job creation grants and forgivable loans, and deferred or reduced development fees.
Colliers believes the Salina Industrial Park and surrounding area can attract new businesses that will diversify the economy, ease dependence on existing businesses, create new wealth in the form of wages earned and spent locally, create a critical mass of business that will encourage local job growth, and attract individuals to the community to support the workforce needed for new industry.
To do this, Colliers recommends a strong marketing campaign targeted to a highly compatible workforce and industries, the development of a consortium of rural workforce partners such as Snow College, and appropriate incentives used to offset the cost of creating a new corporate location.
In addition to industrial development, the Salina community needs renewed interest, more housing development, and an opportunity to intentionally reinvent itself. The rise of ecommerce and the ability to work remotely because of COVID-19 are positive trends for proud, rural communities like Salina that embrace the nature around them.
The Colliers study reiterated the fact that it is vital to protect the character of a community while helping it evolve. There’s a delicate balance between meeting the needs of legacy residents and attracting residents who bring new life to the region. The community survey made it clear that many current, life-long residents want new growth and development, but many also want to preserve what makes Salina special. When executed correctly, economic development can create an environment that will work for everyone.