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Chris Jones

Moapa Band Cements Deal for its Land

14 July 2004

One of the nation's largest cement companies said this week it has struck a deal to build a $250 million plant less than 40 miles northeast of Las Vegas on land owned by the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians.

The Ash Grove Cement Co. expects the plant would bring a steady influx of cash and 100 to 130 new jobs to the reservation while helping the company meet rising demands for cement in this area.

"This should be a long-term revenue source for the tribe and will help us put additional product into a market that's right now struggling to get enough cement," Kent Sunderland, Ash Grove vice chairman, said Monday.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Ash Grove previously supplied cement to customers in Southern Nevada by manufacturing it at plants in Utah and Oregon and shipping it by rail to a company-owned terminal in North Las Vegas.

Sunderland said the region's ongoing cement shortage highlighted the need to increase production here, prompting Ash Grove to look into building a plant somewhere nearby. Once the Moapa plant comes online, it would become the company's primary supplier within the state.

"I would expect about 80 percent to 90 percent of what is made there will be used in Southern Nevada," Sunderland said. "If there are other areas that are underserved and we have product available, we may be be able to ship some to other terminals."

Ash Grove has existing Western Region terminals in Elko, as well as in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The Moapa plant would be the first entirely new facility to be built by Ash Grove in 75 years. The company has for decades grown by expanding its existing plants, Sunderland said.

The site was attractive because of its proximity to Las Vegas and existing rail and highway connections, as well as limestone reserves that could support cement production for at least 100 years.

Ash Grove will pay a still-undetermined royalty to the tribe for limestone it removes from the reservation, in addition to water rights fees and tribal taxes. The plant will be capable of producing up to 1.5 million tons of cement per year, which Sunderland said would qualify it as one of the country's largest plants.

The tribe's active pursuit of industrial partnerships also played a major role in Ash Grove's decision to locate on tribal land, Sunderland said, adding residents of the reservation will get first consideration for employment.

"This means a better future for our tribal members and the community in general," Phil Swain, chairman of the council, said Tuesday. "There are going to be jobs created and opportunities for people who want to stay at home (on the reservation), apply here and make a career out of working for Ash Grove."

These days, the 200 or so tribe members who reside at the reservation depend heavily on revenue generated from gasoline, cigarette and fireworks sales at a small roadside shop they operate just east of Interstate 15, Swain said.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who serves as a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement the deal represents "a tremendous opportunity that will allow the tribe to develop their property and use their natural resources for economic gain and betterment."

The plant's salaries are expected to exceed those now available on the reservation, he added, without outlying a specific salary range.

Ash Grove has started the permitting process, which is expected to wrap up by 2006. Construction is expected to begin early that year in time to open in late 2007 or early 2008.

The company has not selected a general contractor, but Sunderland expects "several hundred" workers will be used during construction.

The plant's 24-hour daily operations are not expected to affect air quality in the Las Vegas Valley or at the nearby reservation, Sunderland said. Cement production is not water-intensive, he added, noting that tribal leaders are working to secure a water settlement agreement with various government agencies.

Ash Grove operates cement and lime plants in nine states. With an annual production capacity of more than 7.8 million tons of cement, it is the fourth-largest cement manufacturer in the United States, according to the company's Web site.