San Juan County draws $1.8 million state grant to fund pipeline extension to industrial park

Project funded through New Mexico Economic Development Department

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The grant money will come from the Local Economic Development Act job-creation fund.
  • County officials will need to work with the New Mexico Gas Company to arrange for construction of the pipeline.
  • The 190-acre property where the park is situated is located 18 miles north of Farmington.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County officials are hoping a $1.82 million rural infrastructure grant they have received from the state for the construction of a natural gas pipeline will attract new business to a county-owned industrial park in La Plata and also benefit area residents.

Officials at the New Mexico Economic Development Department announced March 29 that San Juan County had been awarded the grant, which will be used to extend a natural gas pipeline 11 miles along N.M. Highway 170 to the San Juan County Industrial Park in the far northern part of the county.

County officials have targeted the park for redevelopment in an effort to attract new tenants.

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A news release issued by the EDD states that former tenants of the park had told county officials they were paying more for propane at the site than they were in rent. Extending a natural gas pipeline to the site will make it more appealing to tenants, according to the release.

County spokesman Devin Neeley said the county will need to work with the New Mexico Gas Company to arrange for construction of the pipeline. He guessed that work could take several months.

State officials have awarded a $1.82 million grant to fund the extension of a natural gas pipeline that will run to the San Juan County Industrial Park in La Plata.

The grant money will come from the Local Economic Development Act job-creation fund.

"This project is an innovative, strategic investment of state LEDA collars that will expand economic capacity in a rural community and create hundreds of jobs," Alicia Keyes, the state's secretary of economic development, stated in the news release.

Neeley said county officials have no specific businesses in mind for the park, but he said it will be suitable for a variety of uses, especially when the natural gas pipeline has been extended.

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Terri Fortner

"The natural gas line investment by the state Economic Development Department is a big win for expanding economic opportunities at the San Juan County Industrial Park as well as the entire La Plata valley corridor," County Commission Chair Terri Fortner stated in the news release. "Upon completion of the project, San Juan County will have the finest industrial manufacturing space to offer in the Four Corners."

Neeley said an additional benefit of the pipeline extension is that residents of the La Plata area who do not have access to natural gas service will be able to pay to tie into the new main line that is being built, thus enabling them to heat their homes and water with gas instead of propane.

The 190-acre property is located 18 miles north of Farmington. County officials hope to generate as many as 600 new jobs there through the redevelopment of the park.

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The money from the LEDA job-creation fund is part of a $4.1 million package of improvements planned for the site. Other elements of the package include broadband, water/fire suppression, office upgrades, roofing, lighting security, heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements, according to the news release. San Juan County is paying for $700,000 of that total, which is approximately 20% of the cost of the project.

The San Juan County Industrial Park in La Plata includes this 42,000-square-foot building on a 190-acre property.

The park is located on the site of a coal mining company headquarters that closed in 2006, the press release states. San Juan County acquired the property — which includes a 42,000-square-foot building, offices and ancillary buildings — in 2007 from BHP Billiton and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The Process Equipment & Service Company in Farmington leased the space from the county until 2019, at which point another manufacturing tenant was scheduled to move in, the press release states. But those plans changed when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the facility has been unoccupied since then, although Neeley said PESCO continues to use a few acres of the site for storage.

County officials have another use for the property in mind in addition to seeing it serve as a possible manufacturing site. They have targeted some of the land for a film backlot set, and Neeley said they hope to have a contract in place and be ready for construction within the next few months. Neeley, who also serves as the county's film liaison, has said the county plans to construct a series of buildings that could pass for a small Middle Eastern, Native American or Mexican village on the site.

Government officials hope the planned construction of a natural gas pipeline extension to the San Juan County Industrial Park in La Plata makes the facility more attractive to tenants.

The backlot would be part of Totah Studios, a joint venture between the county and the City of Farmington that includes the recently renovated Totah Theater in downtown Farmington. Totah Studios is designed to help promote the county as a shooting destination for film and TV producers as part of an effort to diversify the local economy.

According to The Daily Times archives, County Manager Mike Stark has said the county has approximately $250,000 in state funds available to build the backlot.

Neeley said in August 2021 that the designs for the backlot village had been completed.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: