If a Nevada rocket fuel plant chooses not to relocate to southern Utah, it won't be for lack of trying by Utah officials.
The Legislature met in special session Wednesday to consider changing a state law to allow the issuance of industrial revenue bonds for a $33 million Pacific Engineering and Production Co. plant. Lawmakers were expected to complete that business Wednesday afternoon.Although PEPCON has not officially selected Utah, a California-based manufacturer announced Wednesday it will acquire a new plant in Spanish Fork that will employ 600 workers within two years and pump $5 million annually into the local economy.
An American Metal Foundary spokesman said the company will seek $10 million in similar industrial revenue bonds from the Spanish Fork City Council Wednesday night to buy and refurbish an existing plant near I-15.
AMF will build mopeds, adult tricycles, utility tractors and manufactured homes as well as retrofit government cargo planes at the Spanish Fork plant. The company is also in the process of acquiring a motor home manufacturer and will move at least some of that company's operations here.
While AMF's announcement was welcome news to Utah County, state lawmakers huddled Wednesday to decide how to lure another 200 jobs to Iron County and enhance the state's role in the space program.
PEPCON's Henderson, Nev., plant was destroyed in an explosion and fire last May, and the company is seeking a new site. PEPCON is one of only two U.S. manufacturers of ammonium perchlorate, a critical ingredient in rocket fuel propellant.
"While calling the special session does not guarantee that this facility will be built in Utah, it would be foolhardy for us not to do everything possible to save jobs already in the state, as well as entice 200 new jobs here," Gov. Norm Bangerter said.
The rocket fuel propellant is used by Hercules and Morton Thiokol in the production of space and military rocket motors. Both companies say they have stockpiled enough of the chemical to last through early next year, when PEPCON is expected to resume production.
"This is not a partisan issue, and I would not have called this session without leadership's full support," Bangerter said. The Legislature was expected to give its overwhelming support to the bill.
The issuance of industrial revenue bonds involves the state lending its credit rating to PEPCON. PEPCON has an agreement with NASA and Morton Thiokol to repay the bonds with a surcharge on rocket fuel.
PEPCON is also considering two isolated sites in Nevada.
Rep. Haze Hunter, R-Cedar City, said the rocket fuel plant will bring much needed growth to the Iron County economy, which has been stagnant for at least five years.
Last year alone, 12 businesses along Cedar City's main street closed their doors, he said. "We do need something down there for the economy," Hunter said.
Utah County benefited from the fortuitous intervention of a Utah friend of AMF spokesman George Klinell. He said the company had been ready to build in southern California but changed its plans after he was reminded of the advantages of what has been his home state for the past nine years.