A plant to manufacture chemicals used in making propellants for auto safety air bags has moved a step closer to reality with the recent sale of 160 acres of state land.

American Pacific Corp. of Las Vegas and Dynamit Nobel Ag of Germany agreed earlier this year to build the $20 million sodium azide plant in Iron County near Cedar City. The chemical is the main ingredient used in gas generators that inflate automobile safety airbags.In the latest development, the Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry sold the property to American Pacific, which is the parent company of several subsidiaries operating in Utah.

The land originally was part of the Bureau of Land Management domain. To accomplish the sale, state officials chose the parcel as part of the quantity land-grant selection process, which lets the state acquire a certain number of federal acres to support the public schools.

The BLM amended its management plan for the area, writing an environmental assessment on the exchange. It concluded that the transfer would have no serious impact, said Kevin Carter, trust and asset manager for the division.

BLM officials then transferred the 160 acres to the state, which offered it a public auction Sept. 21. American Pacific purchased the parcel for $1,000 an acre.

American Azide Corp., a subsidiary of American Pacific, will build and operate the plant. One of the biggest users of sodium azide is Morton International, an Ogden company.

"Everyone benefits from this sale," Carter said. "It's an example of cooperation between the division and BLM. It promotes industrial and economic development in southern Utah."

Dale Huffaker of Utah State University, Logan, who works as liaison between USU and the State Land Board, said, "The funds from this sale will be invested in a permanent trust principal account."

In this case, USU is the trust beneficiary.

"The efforts taken by the Division of State Lands and Forestry to realize this sale are very positive and greatly appreciated by USU," Huffaker added.