It's been a week since the Legislature agreed to finance the relocation of a Nevada rocket fuel chemical manufacturer to southern Utah, but the company has yet to say whether it's actually coming.
Lawmakers had no guarantee that Pacific Engineering and Production Co. would choose to rebuild near Cedar City instead of southern Nevada when they changed the law to allow state bonds to be issued for the $33 million plant.A PEPCON official attending the July 20 special session of the Legislature to consider the plant bonding said a decision could be made in a few days. He has not been available for comment since.
Those days have stretched into a week, nearing the Aug. 1 deadline the company set for construction to begin on a new plant to replace the Henderson, Nev., facility destroyed in an explosion last May.
PEPCON is one of two U.S. manufacturers of ammonium perchlorate, a chemical used in the production of solid rocket fuel for the space shuttle and missiles.
The construction deadline must be met in order to avoid a critical national shortage of the chemical. PEPCON has promised the government it would be operating again by Feb. 1.
Both Hercules and Morton Thiokol have said that unless PEPCON is back in production by early next year, their supplies of ammonium perchlorate will be depleted and workers will have to be laid off.
PEPCON would repay the taxable industrial revenue bonds Utah has agreed to issue through a surcharge on the chemical. The state would not assume financial responsibility for the repayment of the bonds, but would use its good credit rating to ensure a favorable borrowing rate.
Gov. Norm Bangerter has talked with company officials several times since the daylong legislative session ended, and last spoke with them by telephone on Tuesday, according to his spokeswoman, Francine Giani.
The governor expects a site to be chosen by the end of the week, Giani said. "It's just a matter of days. Certainly, we can be patient," she said, adding that the company knows how much the state wants the plant.
Nevada officials also want the plant, and may keep part of it, according to that state's head of economic development, Andrew Grose.
Reached on military reserve duty in Washington, D.C., Grose said that he, too, believes a decision will be made this week.
That decision might be to keep the first stage of production - and about half of the estimated 200 jobs - in Nevada because of the lower electric rates there, he said.
The two sites under consideration in Nevada are both in isolated portions of the state's most populous county, Clark County. One is on an Indian reservation and a second is near the Lincoln County line.
Grose said Nevada can only offer the same taxable industrial revenue bonds through its Commerce Department that Utah lawmakers will allow to be issued through the Utah Housing Finance Agency.
The only other incentive Nevada may be able to offer, Grose said, is cooperation from Clark County officials for building and other necessary permits.
That cooperation might not be politically expedient for county officials, who must contend with residents who don't want a repeat of the earthquake-force explosion on May 4 that killed two workers and injured more than 350, he said.
Cedar City officials, on the other hand, are ready to welcome the plant with open arms. They have said that the jobs PEPCON would bring to the depressed Iron County economy on its 4,800-acre site are more than enough incentive to overlook potential danger.