FARMINGTON — The county’s hopes to open the San Juan County Industrial Park received a boost April 28 with a $1.6 million infrastructure grant from the U.S. Bailout Coal Communities Pledge .
County Executive Mike Stark said that grant, 30% in county matching funds and an earlier state grant to connect the park to a local natural gas line, totaled more than $4.1 million. investment dollars to improve the facility for potential tenants.
Planned infrastructure improvements are intended to stimulate future growth of the industrial park.
Upon completion, Stark predicted the facility would be “potentially the first industrial space here in the Four Corners”.
Cash received from the state and federal government
The $1.6 million in federal money for infrastructure will be matched by $699,760 in local money.
The $4.1 million investment plan is complemented by a $1.82 million rural infrastructure grant the county received in March for the construction of a gas pipeline extension aimed at attracting new businesses in the La Plata industrial park, owned by the county.
The New Mexico Department of Economic Development announced March 29 that San Juan County had received the state grant to extend an 11-mile natural gas pipeline along the NM 170 freeway to the industrial park, a project that will also open access to natural gas to residents along this highway.
From mine headquarters to industrial park
The 190-acre parcel was acquired by San Juan County as a future industrial park from the Bureau of Land Management and international mining company BHP Billiton in 2007.
The area was used for 10 years by local company PESCO, an oil and gas equipment manufacturer, until 2019.
Another tenant was ready to occupy the park in early 2020, “and then COVID hit, and they rightfully backed off,” Stark said.
After lease negotiations ended, the facility sat vacant, and the county decided to look into the shortcomings noted by past users of the site and seek money to improve the park.
Located 18 miles north of Farmington on Highway 170, BHP’s former La Plata mine headquarters is just a little off the beaten path. The 1985 facility includes a 42,000 square foot building, as well as smaller buildings. There is a 19,200 square foot store and it has two overhead cranes 50 feet above the work area, according to a white paper for the county grant application.
Stark said these cranes are a big advantage in attracting certain types of manufacturing.
There is also storage space, locker rooms and support areas on the lower level, and 8,200 square feet of adjoining office space, according to the white paper.
Stark said the office space needs updating, and that’s part of the plans for the grant money. Other upgrades include broadband access and structural improvements. These include water and fire suppression system upgrades, lighting and security upgrades, mechanical upgrades, HVAC system upgrades and system improvements roof.
The improvements partly represent the county acting on concerns or complaints from those who used the facility despite key flaws, Stark said. The lack of access to natural gas meant high propane heating bills, and the lack of broadband also made the site less attractive.
Grant part of the federal effort for coal communities
The grant is part of the Economic Development Administration’s $300 million US bailout and coal communities pledge.
“President Biden’s U.S. bailout provides direct assistance to American communities as they work to build a better America following the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement. a press release on April 28.
“This EDA investment will support San Juan County in its efforts to diversify its economy and create new, well-paying jobs for the community.”
The EDA press release noted that the project was facilitated by regional planning efforts “led by the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments. The EDA is funding the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.
The statement said the project is part of the federal government’s multi-agency efforts to help communities hard hit by job cuts in the coal industry.
“The Economic Development Administration is committed to helping communities across the country implement strategies to alleviate economic hardship brought about by the coronavirus pandemic,” said the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This project is part of EDA’s Coal Community Engagement and will support the transition of the local economy from the coal industry to new fields, attracting additional businesses to San Juan County and supporting a stronger and more resilient regional economy.”
Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or by email at [email protected]
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