Charlotte, N.C. — When Charlotte Pipe and Foundry decided to expand in the western U.S. from its eastern base, it needed land with easy access to rail and highway transportation. The company found that and more at the largest new rail-served industrial park west of the Mississippi, at Port 15 Utah in Cedar City, Utah, a dynamic mix of public and private interests.
Charlotte Pipe found “a business-friendly environment,” said Brad Muller, vice president of marketing, “and a very easy place to do business.”
With the “fast track” process offered by the developer, it took only seven months to go from permits to a completed 148,000-sq.ft. facility.
The 107-year-old family-owned company, wanted to sell plastic pipe and fittings to West Coast plumbing distributors. But because pipe “is mostly air,” it's too expensive to ship across the country, so Charlotte Pipe needed a manufacturing site within a day-and-a-half-drive of southern California and other population centers on the coast. The company also needed rail service to deliver its primary raw material - PVC resin - a reliable work force, and room to expand. Charlotte Pipe learned Utah is the meeting point of three major rail lines, with service to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
“Port 15 is a unique commercial and industrial center,” said Mike Hillis, a managing partner at Commerce CRG, a regional commercial real estate firm marketing the property.
Utah's three interstate highways — two east-west routes, I-70 and I-80, and a north-south route, I-15, which runs through the middle of Cedar City — have made the state a central distribution point along the Canada/Mexico trade corridor.
The Iron County region and Cedar City are both undergoing population growth, while maintaining a high quality of life and reasonable cost of living. Southern Utah University and Southwest Applied Technology College offer higher education in the area.
The Quantum Development Group created a partnership with the Utah School Land Trust to assemble 800 acres the state owned, which was already served by a Union Pacific rail line connecting Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Not having to purchase land allowed Quantum to develop roads, and install fiber optic cable and other infrastructure. Rocky Mountain Power built a new substation to meet power needs, which are significant for Charlotte Pipe.
“It's a model of cooperation” between the public and private sectors, said Bryan Dangerfield, director of the Cedar City/Iron County Office of Economic Development.
Because all infrastructure was in place, everyone could focus on getting Charlotte Pipe's plant approved, built and producing pipe in short order.
“The rail access makes it a real gem,” Dangerfield added.
“Charlotte Pipe is a perfect fit for what we have out at Port 15,” says Cedar City Mayor Gerald R. Sherratt. “We offer the infrastructure and incentives that allow the company to build its business, and Charlotte Pipe brings high-quality jobs to our community. They're a real class act.”
Finding enough qualified people was not difficult for Charlotte Pipe. The state's investment in education has produced a competitive labor force that's younger than the national average at an average age of 28.4 years old.