$280m Fillmore factory project unveiled

Moab resort developer buys 151 acres north of city airport

Affordable housing might be coming to Fillmore after all, but no one had imagined it until now.

A massive industrial project unveiled at a county economic development board meeting last week involves a $280 million industrial-size modular home factory to be built over the next three years on a 150-acre site in a short distance from Interstate 15 to the county seat. Western coast.

A million-square-foot factory floor could combine robots and workers producing complete, habitable housing modules — think complete as including cabinets, windows, and doors — up to 6,000 of them. per year. The company is called American Spec Modular.

“This factory will be almost 50% robotic. Imagine a Ford automobile plant in Detroit. It’s like making homes like Ford makes cars,” said Wayne Aston, owner and CEO of Prestige Resort Development Group, whose most notable achievement of late is Sage Creek in Moab, a $100 million condo project. of dollars.

Aston was in Delta on Wednesday morning to introduce himself to county economic development board members and outline his vision for solving what is plaguing the state’s housing market and a construction industry mired in labor issues. skilled labor and material costs that are out of control.

Aston said his group bought the 150-acre site — it sits along W 200 S or W. Canyon Road, just across the roadway from Fillmore Municipal Airport — and hired Big D Construction, a Salt Lake City company that does about $2 billion in business. one year, to begin the preliminary planning of the project.

Aston said it plans to employ around 250 full-time workers – it wants to staff the facility with an all-military workforce – and somewhere between 150 and 180 truck drivers, hired to operate the 150 semi-trailers from the factory, delivering finished modules to construction sites near and far.

He added that he is also partnering with a company that will operate a second factory on site, this one producing composite building materials from waste plastics and wood. Known as Everwood, composite materials are made using an extrusion process to create durable building materials.

“Everwood is an alternative wood created from landfill waste,” Aston said. “So we can take a garbage truck, push it into our machine, and pull out a railroad tie, or a piece of two-by-four or four-by-eight siding. We can make trusses, floor joists with it.

Aston said the material had already been tested in Utah in a stretch of railroad ties.

“It’s not a brand new technology. He is 10 years old. It evolved,” he said.

Aston said the ambitious project requires around $100 million in infrastructure investment, including the extension of a rail line to its installation.

He said studying this is ongoing, but one idea is to revitalize the old 32-mile branch of the Union Pacific line that ran from Delta to Fillmore from 1923. The line was officially abandoned in 1984 , although an earlier effort to abandon it as early as 1942 was scrapped.

Aston said it will also need to upgrade and widen the overpass at 200 South and the freeway and secure new freeway exits for that area so trucks can easily enter and exit the plant. He estimated the price of this work alone at around $80 million.

A financial consultant at Aston said infrastructure improvements would likely be funded through some sort of public-private construction or some combination of these – tax increment financing (TIF), redevelopment agency (RDA) or of a Public Infrastructure District (PID). Utah’s Inland Port Authority has been repeatedly cited as an example of successful PID infrastructure financing – it raised $150 million by selling tax differential bonds last year.

A combination of equity and debt would likely finance the project itself.

Aston said it would like to keep the Everwood factory and facility on about half the area and leave the other half open to other innovative ventures that could serve as props.

Aston spent some time explaining the “why” behind its vision, a virtual tour of the state of housing and construction in the state and across the country.

He said his experience building Sage Creek in Moab led him to the plan for a modular housing factory. He said he’s witnessed first-hand the impact of importing skilled labor to Moab, which he says has added at least an additional 20% to his development costs compared to himself. he had built the station along the Wasatch front. He also said he witnessed the struggle his employees had to find affordable housing – he described how some of his lowest-paid people sometimes spent $2,800 a month renting double-wide trailers, often living two families in a house to make it affordable.

“We have gained in-depth knowledge of this affordable housing crisis. Moab is maybe one of the toughest cases in the state because you have this extreme tourism demand…what happens in this environment is you have all this hospitality and support services and the The area’s median income is only about $55,000 a year. Sixty-eight percent of this county earns less than $24,000 a year,” he said, pointing out that only a few thousand residents support a tourism industry that typically draws 4 million people to the area each year. .

“And so there are these interesting market anomalies that cause housing to be in huge demand and very expensive. We have housekeepers who help run the resort and pay $2,800 per month for a double-wide trailer. And they can’t afford it, so they have two families in a double-wide trailer. For me, this is unacceptable,” he added.

After exploring modular home building options, he discovered that most manufacturers need giant deposits. And on top of that, there is often a waiting list for such products which can mean between a year and three before delivery.

“I just thought it didn’t help me at all. I can’t wait two or three years and risk putting half the money, non-refundable,” he said. “So I said I guess we’re going to be a mod maker. So that’s what we did.

At full capacity, American Spec could become the largest builder of modular homes in North America within a few years.

Aston said the tumult in the building trades also figured into its planning. He spent 10 years as a stone and tile contractor. He said that in the past, property developers could hire whoever they wanted and have ultimate control over how the property is developed, the timing of construction, those days are mostly over. Contractors now effectively govern the industry, dictating costs and setting the pace of work.

“It’s because of the scarcity of skilled labour. There are so few skilled carpenters, skilled electricians, plumbers and the like…it’s a losing battle,” he said, adding that he believed the construction industry had never really recovered from the housing crash of 2008. “All of this contributes to the affordable housing crisis.

Aston said a residential construction plant solves many of these problems.

“If you talk to construction workers and they have the ability to work in an air-conditioned environment every day and it’s predictable versus driving to Park City or being in that environment or that environment , there is no comparison,” he said. “You can make more money, you can have more precision, you can have a higher quality product in a facility.”

Board members asked Aston how its employees would deal with the lack of housing in the Fillmore area themselves. The developer said its plans call for most of its workforce to live outside the area, commuting to work three 12-hour shifts and then commuting home the rest of the week. Aston said it suspected only about 50 employees, mostly executives, would become residents of Fillmore.

A housing estate or hotel-type accommodations may house employees traveling to Fillmore for work.

Aston was asked what kind of income American Spec workers can expect to earn. He says he wants to create a culture where employees stay for three to five years and learn to become their own producers, entrepreneurs. He said the salary would be above average and there would be training opportunities in all sorts of business fields.

“My goal is not to enslave people to a job. I want to provide an elite level income and help give them the opportunity to move on,” he said. “Our minimum wage will be 20 or 30% higher than any other wage on the market. Intentionally.”

Aston said it doesn’t think it will be uncommon for entry-level workers to earn between $28 and $35 an hour.

American Spec has already tested part of its concept at a factory in Andrews, North Carolina, which builds affordable modular homes. Aston said the most expensive model likely costs $107,000. He said his goal is really affordable housing, with rent or mortgage payments of around $600 a month.

But construction of single-family homes is not likely at the Fillmore plant, he said. Plans call for the construction of modules for multi-family developments, such as 700-unit apartment complexes.

“An apartment can contain maybe three modules. We produce this in the factory. We put it on our trucks…we will deliver 2,000 modules in sequence and they will be stacked, sewn and coated,” by a general contractor, Aston said.

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