I don’t leave Tooele County very often any more. Now that I’ve worked in the county for the last 13 years, there really isn’t a reason to leave. What I can’t get at a local store I can buy on the internet and have it delivered to my doorstep.
Leaving Tooele County on a week day requires careful planning.
I have to leave early enough that I can get my business done and return before the dreaded evening rush hour starts.
If that’s not possible, then I find a place to hole up in Salt Lake County until the roads clear up. And if there’s an accident, then all bets are off on when traffic will start to flow again.
I’m impatient and sitting in a car going nowhere is more painful than a root canal to me.
About a month ago, I made one of those intrepid trips to the neighboring big county.
My return was delayed past the witching hour. I found myself stopped on the flyover that connects state Route 201 to Interstate 80 for more than a few minutes.
While stopped, I could see I-80 begin to accumulate a long line of vehicles. Drivers appeared to play a real life video game of “Merge Mania,” as drivers from SR-201 tried to merge onto I-80. Drivers from I-80 tried to merge to the right to take exit 99. In the meantime drivers that didn’t want to get off I-80 at exit 99 tried to reach the far left lane so they could drive past the exit, but they had to share the left lane with drivers leaving the right lane and trying to play leap frog to get ahead of the line of cars waiting to take the exit.
When I finally made it to I-80, I eventually merged all the way to the far left lane and headed straight for a Grantsville exit and back tracked to Tooele.
I can hear the chorus of “So what, I do that everyday,” from those of you who do that everyday.
While I was stopped on the road or driving less than 5 miles per hour on an Interstate freeway, some thoughts and numbers ran through my mind.
“What would it take to find all these people jobs in Tooele County?” I thought.
Here’s the math that rattled around in my head. (Cautionary note: this is in no way a scientific study. There’s plenty of room for error, but it’s kind of interesting, at least as a conversation starter).
As of April 2019, the latest month with all the necessary statistics available, Tooele County’s labor force was 32,709 people. There were 16,333 jobs in the county during that month. If all the jobs in the county were filled by people who live here, there would be a job deficit of 16,376. That’s how many more local jobs we would need so everyone in the county’s labor force no longer has to drive on I-80 to work.
The last major employer to locate in Tooele County, that I recall, was a warehouse that employed 265 people, not including seasonal hires. The warehouse was built on 49 acres. That works out to 5.4 jobs per acre.
Do the math: 16,376 jobs divided by 5.4 jobs per acre comes out to 3,099 acres needed to provide jobs for everybody.
The Romney Business Park will be 900 acres. After it is built out, we will only need 2.4 more Romney sized business parks and everybody will have a job in the county.
We can build it, yes we can.
Wait, this line of reasoning gets even better, even if it is grossly wrong.
That 49-acre warehouse facility has a taxable value of $35.5 million.
Somebody please check my math, but that is $724,490 of taxable value per acre.
Should our new 3,099 acres of business be valued the same, it would be worth $2.2 billion — rounded.
At the Tooele County School District’s 2018 tax rate of .010199, the newly developed 3,099 acres would generate $22.9 million of property tax revenue for schools. The rest of us will never need to pay property taxes again!
OK, I know not everybody wants to work in a warehouse. There are other office type jobs that may have a higher density per acre than the warehouse industry.
A quick Google search and I found an article in an office design magazine that recommends 135-square-feet of “useful space” per seat in an office building.
So for 16,736 jobs, we are going to need 2,259,360-square-feet of useful space. That’s the equivalent of 9.3 Stansbury High Schools, without accounting for useless space.
Maybe we should dream big and go for some really big employers.
Volvo, owned by Geely Holding Group — Utah Motorsports Campus’ parent company — opened a 2.3 million-square-foot plant in South Carolina in June 2018, according to Volvo’s website.
The plant employs 1,500 people on 1,600 acres. We only need around 11 Volvo plants to reach our 16,736 jobs. That’s going to be in the neighborhood of 17,600 acres.
While economic development may help ebb the tide of traffic in and out of the county, it looks like other solutions will be needed, unless a bunch of people pack up and move out.
In December 2017, the Tooele Transcript Bulletin recognized commuter delay as the top story of the year.
“Thousands of Tooele County residents commute to jobs along the Wasatch Front every day and congested, disrupted and delayed traffic are playing havoc on the time it takes to get to work or back home,” read the story.
We continue to follow the quest to make the current route in and out of the county wider and safer, while proposals for new routes are studied, planned, funded, and hopefully built soon.