With 82 buildings and 7.5 million square feet of space, the Freeport Center is still probably the largest manufacturing/distribution center in the United States.

"We don't know of anything larger," Stephen L. Barrett, director of economic development for the Freeport Center said. "It's a major concentration of employers."Barrett, who has worked at the center since 1976, said that there are some ambitious expansion plans to begin this summer on the 135 adjacent acres of undeveloped land that the Freeport owns on the north and the west.

Freeport businesses seem to be continually in a state of expansion. New businesses also frequently arrive. For example, Rexene Plastic Products had a grand opening on May 22 at the center.

Taking a tour of the Freeport Center is still an amazing experience, and it reveals that it almost would be easier to list what the center doesn't manufacture or distribute than what it does. From bolts that hold up the ceiling of mines, to microwave dinners, to sporting goods, to roller coasters, to oil filters, to refurbishing the space shuttle's rocket boosters. The Freeport seems to have a little of everything.

Hundreds of trucks are everywhere - unloading or loading. While many of Hill field's buildings are spread out, the Freeport is concentrated in a large area, located about a mile west of I-15.

Speaking of large, Barrett said that the Freeport contains Utah's largest buildings. For example, Hercules (Freeport's largest employer, with about about 750 people) also has Utah's largest single building - a 600,000-square-foot behemoth that's 1,900 feet long and 200 feet wide.

Barrett estimated that the Freeport Center employs about 6,500 people with an annual payroll of $114 million. Although it might not be fair to list the Freeport as the Davis County's second biggest employer behind Hill Air Force Base because it has 70 different major businesses located there, it is an economic force to be recognized.

In fact, commuters don't want to be anywhere near the Freeport Center around 4 p.m. on a weekday when many of the employees get off work since there's Freeport traffic dispersing from the west and Hillfield traffic coming from the east. One of the major reasons for the current widening of Antelope Drive in Layton from two to four lanes is the Freeport Center and its heavy volume of truck and commuter traffic.

Although the Freeport was originally a distribu-tion/storage center, today the trend has changed.

"The trend today is to manufacturing," Barrett said, explaining that 65 percent of the Freeport is nowFREEPORTContinued from D?

involved with manufacturing. Most of the companies there serve more than just Utah and are usually regional centers.

Most of the new businesses that the Freeport attracts are ones that relocate to Utah because of the lower overhead or ones that expand westward and need a conveniently hub.

The Freeport has its own post office, zip code, security force and maintenance crew. The IRS, the Clearfield Job Corps, the Weber, Davis and Ogden school districts, Clover Club and R.C. Willey also all have space at the Freeport.

The Freeport Center was originally a vast U.S. Navy supply depot, commissioned April 10, 1943, to replace large tomato fields and pastures. Construction took almost 11 months and $25.5 million in 1942-43.

In 1963, the Freeport and its 6 million square feet were sold to private industry. The current owners, Freeport Center Associates, purchased the center in 1972. Its two main partners are Robert O. Block and Boston and G. Olch or Park City.

The Freeport suffered a recession from 1980 to 1983 when it lost a lot of distribution companies that have since been replaced by manufacturers.

Barrett said that like most of Utah, the Freeport has been spared from recent economic hardships.

"We haven't really seen the effects of the current recession," he said. "We're optimistic about our future. We've had better than 95 percent occupancy for five years."

Barrett said that Freeport contains many companies wanting to stay low profile but that after 28 years of solid operations, Freeport is well-known outside Utah.

Both Union Pacific and Southern Pacific serve the Freeport and Barrett said that the center is still able to attract one to two new rail-oriented businesses a year. However, the railroad is not nearly the mainstay that it once was. Barrett said that now the center handles only about 3,000 railroad cars a year vs. 83,000 cars in 1983. Trucking has picked up the railroad's slack.

The center still uses the Navy's old street and building system for numbering and addresses.

Freeport West, not affiliated with the Freeport, is about one-eighth its size and is also its main nearby competitor.

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Freeport Center Residents

Here's a listing of some of the major businesses housed at the Freeport Center:

Albertson's

All American (Budget) Gourmet

Allied Aftermarket (Fram oil filters)

Alpo Pet Foods (Pillsbury)

Arrow Dynamics (roller coasters)

Commtron (video tapes)

Del Monte Corp.

Exxon Chemical

Faball Enterprises (bowling balls)

Futura Home Products

Hercules Inc.

Horizons International Foods (microwave french fries)

Kraft Food Service

Kremco (oil rigs)

Lifetime Products (basketball equipment)

Malnove Printing (folding cartons)

Management Training Corp. (Clearfield Job Corp)

Montgomery Ward

North American Philips Lighting

Poli-Twine (bailing twine)

P.S.T. Vans

Rossignol Ski Company

Ryder Systems (fleet maintenance)

Scott U.S.A (ski goggles, poles)

Smiths Management

Thiokol Corp.

Utility Trailers

Wilson Sporting Goods