Utah County soon could be the home of 20 acres of high-tech greenhouses in which fruits and vegetables could be grown in less than a week, the County Commission was told Monday.
The project, proposed by the Canadian firm of 372224 Alberta Limited, could provide as many as 500 jobs. Bond counsel Richard Fox, who was contacted by the firm about locating in Utah County, said the company already has one such greenhouse facility on the Canadian island of Newfoundland.Fox said Alberta Limited is seeking an inducement resolution from the county for $13.5 million in industrial revenue bonds. Passage of the inducement resolution would give company officials the go-ahead to test the bond market for financing the project, which would cost between $16 million and $20 million. Bonds would be marketed in Canada.
"We have nothing to lose," Commissioner Gary Anderson said. The commission will vote on the inducement resolution Wednesday. If the resolution is approved, Alberta Limited would have two years to line up financing."
Fox emphasized that the proposed project is in the preliminary stages. "They're still looking at several states. We're still competing."
Richard Bradford, executive vice president of the Utah Valley Economic Development Association, said officials will know within a month or two whether Utah Valley has been selected as the project site. Site selection could begin
next month. He said UVEDA has been working on the deal for six months and the firm offers the valley the type of clean industry that economic development officials seek for the county.
Fox said the greenhouse facility would be built in a hublike shape and would utilize a technology known as "biophotic production." He said the technology would be new to the United States.
"It looks promising. The projected production is really remarkable," he said. For example, Fox said, vegetables such as cucumbers take only six days from blossom to harvest.
The facility, using computers to monitor a high-humidity, temperature-controlled environment, would produce about 30 different fruits and vegetables, including tropical fruit, cattle feed, shellfish and possibly tobacco.
"They can respond very quickly to market conditions," Fox said. "You can have yams for Thanksgiving and strawberries for Christmas."
Fox said officials from Alberta Limited want to locate a facility in the United States and were attracted to Utah County by its wage scale, work ethic and skilled work force. The success of Stouffer Foods Corp., which could be a potential customer, also attracted the company.