A tight labor market near the home office, coupled with attractive commitments from Pocatello, Idaho, prompted fast-growing Ballard Medical Products Inc. to schedule groundbreaking last week for a $7 million, 80,000- to 100,000-square-foot operation in the southeastern Idaho city. Ballard, which employs 800 and generates $80 million in annual sales making plastic tubing, disposable scrub systems and other medical industry-related items at its Draper, Utah, home base, will construct its new building in the Idaho State University Research Park.
Idaho State University swapped 32 acres of Ballard-owned land outside the research park for 20 acres in the park adjacent to the Idaho State Veterans Home as part of the agree-ment to bring the Ballard facility to Pocatello. The actual amount of land in each parcel will depend on a determination of equal valuation, development officials said.
The plant will initially employ 150 and increase employment over three years to 400, state officials said. The expansion will give Ballard about 500,000 square feet of operating floor space in three states.
Notable about the expansion is the speed at which agreement was reached between Ballard and city and state officials.
As incentives, the local development authority provided Ballard with a ``fast track officer,'' who will help the company quickly overcome permit and licensing problems if they arise, said Thomas A. Arnold, executive director of Pocatello-based Bannock Development Corp.
Idaho State also applied to Bannock County to have the future Ballard site declared part of a ``revenue allocation district'' to allow for an incremental property tax increase from the improvement by Ballard to be used to finance water, sewer and road improvements in the research park only.
Arnold said Ballard agreed to build in Pocatello on Aug. 29, contingent on the agreement of the Idaho State Board of Education to the land swap. The company had been looking in eastern Idaho for a manufacturing site and chose the research park over a location in Idaho Falls, he said. Agreement from the board came Sept. 22.
Ballard spokeswoman Julia Porter declined to comment on the short time frame from the beginning of discussions to the groundbreaking.
Ballard's most recent expansion, in late 1994, included the acquisition of Medical Innovations Corp., which manufactures a stomach feed system in Milpitas, Calif., and Cox Medical Inc., a biopsy retrievals device manufacturer in Ventura, Calif.
Movement of the Milpitas operation is being reviewed but ``it will probably stay right there,'' Porter said. The Ventura operations will move to either Pocatello or Draper, Porter said.
Prior to that, publicly traded Ballard expanded its Draper operation with a 90,000-square foot addition in March, 1994, which brought floor space at that time to 300,000 square feet and the number of injection presses to 31.
Porter did not know the types of presses to be installed in the Pocatello plant.