WASHINGTON — Arizona’s two senators played an integral part in helping Pinal County obtain a major grant that will fund infrastructure developments around Inland Port Arizona, a massive industrial park located at the southern tip of Coolidge.
Late Wednesday evening the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it had awarded two sizable Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants to the city of Phoenix and Pinal County.
“Arizona’s infrastructure has to be able to keep up with our state’s rapid economic and population growth,” said Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in a press release. “It is great to see both of these important projects, which I advocated strongly for, receive funding from the Department of Transportation.”
Phoenix will receive $24 million through the grant for a north-side rail expansion at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. A $15.3 million BUILD grant will also be awarded to Pinal County for an infrastructure improvement project near the Inland Port, located between Houser and Hanna roads. Pinal County was the lead applicant on the grant, with the city of Coolidge acting as a joint applicant.
In a letter signed by McSally and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and addressed to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the two senators cited the economic impact the 2,700-acre industrial park will have on Pinal County, such as job growth and increased property value, among the primary reasons to consider the project for the BUILD grant.
“I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a BUILD grant for Inland Port. Pinal County has a robust and growing economy, with a strong business climate, and this award serves as further recognition that Pinal County is a great place to do business,” said Mike Goodman, chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors. “We greatly appreciate the support and efforts of our congressional delegation, especially Senators McSally and Sinema, and Congressmen (Paul) Gosar and (Tom) O’Halleran, and we look forward to further development of the Inland Port.”
Nikola Motor Company announced plans to develop a 1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility at IPAZ last year. The company is expected to bring more than 3,500 direct and indirect jobs to the region over a 10-year period and will likely generate an economic output of $1.2 billion, according to a study completed by Elliott D. Pollack & Co.
The BUILD funding will be allocated toward roadway improvements along Hanna and Houser roads between Vail Road and State Route 87, updates to the railroad crossings at Houser and Hanna, and intersection improvements at SR 87 and Houser.
“I’m excited that (through) a joint effort we are all going to benefit,” said Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson. “Once everybody knows that rail is really coming (to the site), I think you’re going to see (IPAZ) take off.”
According to the original grant application, Pinal County has committed $750,000 in matching funds for the project. Likewise, Saint Holdings LLC, which owns the IPAZ property, and the city of Coolidge will contribute matching funds in the amounts of $500,000 and $100,000, respectively.
The funds committed by the city will come from the taxes generated through the development of Nikola’s manufacturing site, City Manager Rick Miller said on Thursday.
“We’re excited that through everyone’s joint efforts that the IPAZ is going to get the infrastructure needed for us to continue attracting industry to this area and jobs,” he said.
According to Coolidge Economic Development Director Gilbert Lopez, the improvements to the infrastructure near Houser and Hanna roads will also go a long way in attracting other large-scale projects like Nikola to the area.
He noted that the improvements will likely attract even more attention on a national scale to the IPAZ, which already received plenty of interest from other developers since Nikola announced its intention to build at the industrial park.
Earlier this year, the city of Coolidge was also named the recipient of a $9.5 million grant through the Federal Aviation Administration, awarded to the Coolidge Municipal Airport for the rehabilitation of runway 5-23.
“This grant, on the heels of the FAA grant that (Coolidge) received, is significant for this area,” Miller said. “We have a sizable influx of federal funding to support (and implement) necessary infrastructure. It’s just going to help us out tremendously.”