A move from distribution to manufacturing has injected new life into FreeportCenter operations since occupancy at the center dropped at the beginning of the decade.
"There has been a strong trend to manufacturing from distribution. For example, in 1980 over 80,000 rail cars were handled at Freeport with commodities likeappliances, toys, furniture and food products. (In 1986), fewer than 15,000 railcars were handled here," Stephen L. Barrett, director of economic development for Freeport Center Associates.Barrett said the shift from a distribution center to a manufacturing center has been necessary for survival in a time when manufacturers have tried to cut costs by shipping directly from Eastern and Midwestern plants to West Coast markets. Computerized inventory management systems and skyrocketing interest rates have prompted firms to cut the amount of warehoused goods. In addition, the deregulation of trucking has stymied the ability of railroads to compete with trucking.
In buildings that once warehoused everything from food to washing machines, workers now make bailing twine, artificial flowers, bowling balls and roller coasters. Only 35 percent of the Freeport Center space is currently used for distribution. That is in sharp contrast with 90 percent a decade ago. Occupancy slumped to between 80 and 85 percent in 1982, but a new marketing strategy has brought a rebound back to 95 percent occupancy, Barrett said.
Companies that have recently leased space at Freeport Center for manufacturing include H.C. Brill, which fills five-gallon drums with frosting for use at bakeries around the West. The Bradley Corp., which manufactures washroom accessories, and the Plant Plant, a manufacturer of artificial plants, now lease space at the center. The center has also attracted frozen food producers.
Most recently, All-American Gourmet, producers of frozen dinners, has made expansion plans for its plant, and Massachusetts-based Horizon International Foods has announced plans to manufacture frozen french fries in a new 76,000- square-foot building the center's management is constructing. Older residents - Hercules, Thiokol and Pillsbury - also expanded last year.
Barrett said the center is able to attract business because of Utah's highly productive work force and the state's right-to-work law. The proximity to the large West Coast market also remains a draw.
"They can provide service to a larger market without the cost of doing business there," Barrett said.
The original center was built by the U.S. Navy in the early 1940s and served as a major naval distribution point to the Pacific. It was used by the Navy until 1964, when San Francisco investor Russell Schumacher purchased much of the site from the federal government. The property was sold to Freeport Center Associates, a partnership of Robert O' Block, Boston, and Gordon Olch, Salt Lake City, in 1971. The center originally got its name because goods stored there were exempted from an inventory tax. While the exemption has since been taken away, the name remains.
During the past 10 years, Freeport Center Associates has added about 1.7 million square feet of new space to the original 6 million and has also purchased 135 acres to add to an original 600 acres.
"The economy has been strong. We are upbeat about it. We expect the occupancy to continue to be high. The interest has been high and we believe expansion has been good for us," Barrett said.
The center provides jobs for about 6,000 employees at about 65 principal tenants. The annual payroll forcenter employees is between $60 million and $70 million. The largest employers include Hercules, Morton Thiokol, All American Gourmet and Management and Training Corp., which manages the Clearfield Jobs Corps Center located on Freeport Center property.
Other tenants include Fram; Del Monte; Arrow Dynamics, a manufacturer of amusement park rides; semi-trailer manufacturer Utility Trailer; Kremco, which manufactures oil rigs for Middle Eastern oil producers; and Montgomery Ward's parts distribution point.