Questions loom about a little-known company that proposes to build one of the biggest developments southern Utah has ever seen.

Partners in the Heritage Institute Inc. refuse to say what projects the St. George company has completed - and why officials in three states should believe they can build a 20,000-acre international airport, theme park and commerce center in Iron County.But a search of public records shows officers in the company have been involved in a string of defunct businesses in the past 10 years.

While concern increases about Heritage Institute's background, the group appears to be heading forward with plans for the enormous development.

Responding to a request the Deseret News filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Aviation Administration released the group's April 24 submission of an "Airspace Approval Request" for the "Heritage International Airport."

According to the documents, it is proposed near a Summit, Iron County, interchange. A map included with the FAA document shows the Heritage airport would be located north of Cedar City's current airport off Minersville Road.

The document suggests the airport would handle 1 million to 2 million visitors per year and open in fall 2000.

State documents and Deseret News inquiries also show:

- Although a letter sent to economic development officials in Utah, Nevada and Arizona says Heritage Institute, in conjunction with a company called Heritage International, has "obtained a $100 million guaranteed funding commitment" no proof of the funding has been revealed.

- Although the letter, which documented a "vision" for the project, says Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands would be leased, trustlands officials have not heard from Heritage executives for nearly one year.

When contacted Tuesday, Heritage director and St. George resident Duke Haltom would not explain the concerns and said he could not talk about the development.

"The decision has been made above me not to talk about this," he said. "I'm not in a position to alter this."

Attempts to locate or contact five other company directors were unsuccessful.

"There have been so many rumors I don't think anyone really knows what is going on," said Cedar City Councilman Steve Wood. "We really haven't specifically talked about the project. We really haven't set down at the table."

And although the local rumor mill has been thick with speculation about the development's size and scope, details have been sparse.

"The hardest thing is that the group itself hasn't disclosed a lot of things yet," said Brent Drew, economic development director for Iron County.

Officials want to know what the project really is, Drew said. "We want to know where it's going to be, what the financing sources are and some things like that. But until a formal announcement is made, we're not privy to that information."

Heritage executives have told anyone who asks they will not release any details until mid-May.

The company hasn't asked for anything - except support - from the community, which Drew said is also unusual.

The group detailed some of its plans in a December letter to attorneys, partners and economic development officials in St. George, Cedar City, Washington County and Iron County: "Imagine . . . a city of business; a city of commerce; a city of recreation; a city of multi-storied glass buildings, immaculate desert landscaping and wide boulevards . . . a city with several large resort hotels."

The letter says the group will pursue leases on Utah school trusts lands, but trust-lands assistant development director Rick McBriar said he hasn't heard from Heritage representatives for about a year.

"A long time ago . . . I met with Don Steed in St. George," McBriar said. "He had a lot of ideas and things he wanted to do. We encouraged him to continue his plans and get back with us. They never have."

In both California and in Utah, Heritage is listed as an active company in good standing. However, the company did not file an annual report required by law, and Utah Commerce Department spokesman Kim Morris said this means the company can't solicit funds from the general public in Utah.

The company's status in Utah may also raise questions about a claim that Heritage has $100 million in "guaranteed funding" that it says can be made available by designating the development a "humanitarian project under federal guidelines."

Heritage officials wouldn't say whether they had been granted federal money.

Documents from the state's Department of Commerce list Don O. Steed as president of the company. Duke Haltom is vice president and Emil Landefeld is a director.

In California, Clark Powell is listed as Heritage president.

In the past 10 years, Heritage principles have been involved in a number of defunct companies, according to Utah Department of Commerce records.

- Art Registry Title Co., a business-services company incorporated in 1991 in which Steed and Powell were involved, had its license revoked in 1993 for failing to file an annual report.

- A.R. Holdings, a subdividing and development company formed in 1991, lists Steed and Powell as executives. The state revoked its business license in 1994 for failing to file an annual report.

- Powell and Steed incorporated American Bryce Ranches, a Nevada hotel/motel company in 1991. The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in 1993, according to documents. Utah offiicals revoked in 1995 for failure to file an annual report.

- Haltom and Steed formed ARE Services, a management services company, in 1991. The state involuntarily dissolved the company in 1995 for failing to file an annual report.

- American Ranches Inc., in which Steed and Powell are involved, is a Nevada investing company formed in 1991. The state revoked its license in 1993 for failing to file an annual report.

- Steed was involved in Magnum Distributing International Inc., a Nevada business services company that had its license revoked in 1997 for failing to file an annual report.

- Steed is listed as an executive in a company called H.I.T. Corp., formed in 1989 in Nevada. It was revoked in 1995 for failing to file an annual report.