Unpacking the New Utah Inland Port Authority

February 28, 2024

The Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA) is developing strategic and sustainable logistics-backed economic development solutions to enhance the lives of Utahns and establish Utah as a global industry connector. In 2023, Jaime Hernandez joined EDCUtah as the UIPA project manager, a new role on the business development team created by a partnership between EDCUtah and UIPA. In this role, Jaime manages corporate expansion and recruitment projects for UIPA sites.  

In this Q&A, Jaime spoke with UIPA executive director Ben Hart about the impact of the Port Authority on Utah’s economic development.  

Tell us about UIPA's statewide economic project area strategy. What is it, and what sets these project areas apart?  

Ben: Our premier area encompasses the 16,000 acres near the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake County, but we have sites across the state and bring to market the best of what the state can offer. We’re going to be – and have been – aggressive in site development. Part of this effort is based in helping communities around the state identify what their economic development priorities are and helping them achieve those goals. On the other side of the equation, we are and will be showcasing sites that site selectors and companies will find very attractive, all across Utah.

There are examples from the northern, central, southern, and western parts of the state. In the north, Box Elder County’s project area is seeing the construction of Lakeshore Learning’s assembly and distribution center. That’s a 1.2 million-plus square foot facility that will employ 540 workers. We were able to help the local government put together a compelling incentive that landed that opportunity.

In central Utah, we’ve been working with Northrop Grumman here in Salt Lake City. That incentive has landed. And we’ve been working with other companies to make sure they have good rail access for their operations in the Northwest Quadrant.

In southern Utah, BZI Steel in Cedar City will be hiring up to 800 people, and the company will now be able to get its product shipped right out the door via rail. At the same time, we’re able to help get their site built out with additional infrastructure needs. And in the west, we have a couple of projects underway in Tooele.

All these sites represent a diverse offering we can present to site selectors and companies.

How is the Port Authority optimizing logistics throughout the state with the Logistics Master Plan?

Ben: UIPA is currently collaborating with a company called CPCS to improve Salt Lake City and Utah's logistics infrastructure. Their efforts include analyzing commodity flows, assessing current infrastructure, and formulating logistics strategies on both regional and statewide levels. This plan aims to enhance road and rail systems for better freight movement, perform SWOT analyses in strategic areas, and map out commodity flows. CPCS will also build essential partnerships, engage with communities via open houses, and provide in-depth analyses and strategies for logistics enhancement. Additionally, they will develop tools for continuous analysis and stakeholder engagement.  

This is going to be part of our value proposition for the state for the next 20 to 30 years. Right now, Utah is heavily dependent on road-based transportation. Our goal is to make rail a more viable option across Utah. That means better access, better pricing, and better service.

We’re also looking at the air transportation component, including drone delivery services in advance of the 2034 Winter Olympics if we are lucky enough to get them.  

Overall, Utah has very strong international and regional airports, we have great road access with I-80 and I-15, and we have unique rail capabilities as well. We want Utah to become the logistics capital of the United States, but we won’t get there just by using roads. We’ve got to have multi-model capabilities. When you bring all those things together, as the planning process will help to do, Utah will have a full suite of options for those companies with sophisticated logistics needs.

Why should site selectors and companies consider locating operations at the Inland Port’s locations?

Ben: The Inland Port gives Utah a significant advantage when it comes to attracting, recruiting, and helping businesses to expand. Two of the most important capabilities we provide to site selectors and companies are: 1) streamlined incentives that incorporate all the downstream taxing entities, and 2) assistance with infrastructure development through our infrastructure bank.

There’s a speed-to-market element here. We focus on industrial property, and when you’re talking about three percent vacancy in those properties nationwide, it’s really a question of how fast you can get new buildings vertical. We work with local officials to help businesses get through permitting and entitlement processes, put together solid incentive offers, and lastly, help with infrastructure where needed – all these aspects are part of the value we bring.  

What types of industries will be most attracted to these opportunities?

Ben: We’re really pushing for industrial projects. We’re trying to incentivize and target advanced manufacturing companies first and foremost. That will naturally lead to warehouse distribution as a secondary follow-on.

Our project areas, each with unique characteristics, are designed to attract diverse industries such as logistics, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology. These areas leverage their geographical advantages and resource availability to support economic activities tailored to their specific strengths and local infrastructure.

What is the State doing in terms of infrastructure investment?

Ben: We’ve got a fully capitalized $65 million infrastructure bank that gives us the ability to create public financing options very quickly. The bank uses a tax increment approach for funding.  

We’re trying to remove barriers, whether that’s lining up permits, or getting incentive packaging on the table quickly, or public financing options – those are all things that we can expedite. Our whole pitch with “speed to vertical” is that we can shorten the time needed in any of those key needs.

UIPA has an incredible toolkit to support businesses looking to expand or locate within one of our project areas.  

In Utah, we have the Authority Act, which facilitates the use of tax differential in specific project areas, guided by local statutes and our project area plans. This includes funding for affordable housing, development of land and intermodal facilities, public infrastructure, and environmentally friendly construction. Additionally, we can provide funding in our project areas through the Authority Infrastructure Bank (AIB). Typically, the AIB will focus on projects that generate revenue and serve the public interest, aligning with long-term economic growth objectives.  

This comprehensive approach, encompassing bank loans, area incentives, and tax differential reinvestment, supports businesses in achieving strategic and sustainable development goals in Utah.

What are the key incentives for doing business at Port locations?  

Ben: The Port incentives are coming from the local property tax increment. They can be layered with the State’s incentives offered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. So, we can put attractive, “stacked” incentive deals on the table, hand in glove with the State.  

This means the site selector or company doesn’t have to negotiate with every tax entity. We can work with all those tax entities in a streamlined way to provide the client with one contract process through the Inland Port. In other words, they don’t have to go work with a bunch of other downstream tax entities. Again, we’re able to streamline the entire process.  

What timelines should site selectors and companies be aware of? Which locations are ready for construction and operations?

Ben: Today, we can implement Infrastructure Bank loans, incentive processes, and other public financing tools in 60 to 90 days, in contrast with a lot of jurisdictions across the country where those processes might take two to three years, particularly when you’re negotiating with downstream tax entities. Our board can turn around decisions that quickly.  

In terms of construction, permitting-, and entitlement-support timelines, it varies by location. With that said, we stress to our communities that they need to be ready for development. Those are things we’re working on now. For example, we’re having infrastructure conversations upfront, so these sites are more ready for development.

Some project areas are further along the process while others are still in a greenfield state. The Northwest Quadrant has some buildings already, while other locations need more work to get to site-ready status. For example, Cedar City is dialed when it comes to logistics, but has some other needs. They should be ready to start building within the year.  

Are you taking a spec building vs. a build-to-suit approach?

Ben: It’s a little bit of everything. For example, at the Global Logistics Center in the Northwest Quadrant, they can support the entire design and build process, or they can lease a company acreage and the company can bring in their own construction resources.  

Talk to us about EDCUtah’s role in support of UIPA.

Ben: We're thrilled about working closely with EDCUtah. It's a game-changer for us and the wider community. EDCUtah is key to helping us boost economic growth across the state and connect more deeply with our communities. Together, we're focusing on bringing in new businesses by tapping into EDCUtah's strengths in business development, community strategy, and site selector marketing. This partnership is about making Utah a standout place for logistics and tech, all while looking after our beautiful state.

It's more than just a partnership; it's a powerful way to make sure our efforts really count, boosting Utah's economy and making life better for everyone here. We're on the same page about making a big, positive splash, and honestly, I can't wait to see where this collaboration takes us.

“The Prosperity Post” highlights examples of the impact of your investment and EDCUtah’s work in communities across the state. Do you have a story you’d like us to share? Email

Jaime Hernandez

Utah Inland Port Authority Project Manager