Business Depot Ogden - Five Questions for Boyer's Cameron Cook
Business Depot Ogden (BDO) represents 1,118 acres, 12 million square feet of industrial space (with room to grow), 130 tenants, 6,500 employees, and a history dating back to World War II. It may even have a ghost or two! We caught up with Cameron Cook of the Boyer Company to hear about the past, present, and future of this Northern Utah commercial resource.
What are the origins of BDO?
BDO started as the Defense Depot Ogden in 1941. The Defense Department was looking to move critical military infrastructure away from the coasts – farther than the Japanese bombers could fly without refueling in those days. After a request for proposal was issued, a group of Ogden business people raised the funds and donated the property to the federal government.
Having the Union Pacific line close by was an important feature. With the help of German and Italian prisoners of war, the Feds built about 5 million square feet of buildings in 18 months. They used the depot to store and distribute food and clothing to soldiers and to other military facilities. The depot also stored ammunition, tanks, bedding, and mobile hospitals.
With Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities in 1995, the federal government donated the depot back to the City of Ogden, with restrictions to reinvest any profits back into infrastructure for seven years. Boyer signed a 70-year Master Lease with the city in 1999, and as part of the agreement was required to reinvest profits for the first seven years. This was and is a long-term investment for our business. Reinvesting the returns helped us improve the infrastructure. BDO is in better shape than a lot of other BRAC-related properties around the country and has served as a model for other base closures.
Today, the city owns most of the land and the older buildings. Boyer owns the new buildings erected since 2000.
I should mention that a number of the POWs stayed in the Ogden area after the war to raise families and open businesses.
Who are some of your tenants?
Some of the tenants located here include Hershey’s, Home Depot, Treehouse Foods, Fresenius, Rossignol, Scott USA, Capstone Nutrition, Barnes Aerospace, and Osprey Backpacks. We have one tenant using 300 square feet, and our largest tenant uses 700,000 square feet. In general, about two-thirds of our tenants are in the distribution business and a third are manufacturing a variety of products.
While our occupancy rate is high, above 90 percent, we have capacity to build another 4 million square feet of buildings.
How do you engage with your tenants, especially when they first begin operations?
We try to be flexible. Some of our clients want us to build the shell of the building and they will take it from there. Others want us to take over most of the buildout. Others take a 50/50 approach.
Recently we’ve built several spec buildings, and we try to take a long-term approach. What are the features of the building that will make it still useful in 20 or 30 years? As distribution operations get more sophisticated with the capacity to move heavier loads to higher storage levels, we’re building many buildings with 36-foot clearances, up from the standard 28-foot clearances.
What are some trends you are seeing that BDO exemplifies?
We’re seeing increasing use of temporary expansion space. Many of our tenants have variation in the seasonal amount of storage space they need. Furthermore some of our tenants are holding online “flash” sales – They build up inventory for two or three months and then do an online promotion. Then they repeat the process. We can take a bay in one of our older buildings and lease it out month to month, even week to week, to meet these varying storage needs for companies who lease another building from us long term.
The other trend we see is increased automation of warehousing and distribution. This trend started with our larger tenants but now includes smaller ones too.
We are also trying to dispel any rumors that BDO is full. We’ve can build another 4 million square feet of new space and can retrofit a number of the older buildings. As I mentioned, we’re ramping up our spec building program to stay ahead of demand.
What’s been your relationship with EDCUtah?
We’re a long-time investor and it’s been a positive relationship. When BDO first started, it was hard to get companies to travel up here to take a look. They thought Ogden was too far from Salt Lake City to even consider basing up here.
In the last ten years, we have experienced a lot of success with EDCUtah projects. We have many tours each year and have landed more than a dozen projects, bringing thousands of jobs to the area.
I’m encouraged by the new Northern Utah Economic Alliance, which EDCUtah supports. There’s going to be a real benefit to market the region with focus and direction. We’re strong in manufacturing and distribution, and we’ve got a good story to tell. The two counties really share the same workforce. A project that lands in Farmington can be good for Ogden, and vice versa.
Bonus question – With BDO’s rich history, are there any ghosts wandering the premises?
Just a nurse and soldier who decide to say hello once in a while.