Industry is flowing again at the confluence of the Weber and Ogden rivers, once home to one of the most important stockyard facilities in the country. At the turn of the century, our community’s prominent names came together and founded the Ogden Union Stockyards, acting as precursors to the modern Chamber. Shalae Larsen, an Ogden-based Landscape Architect and Urban Designer said, “The stockyards were part and parcel to the whole train history with Ogden being a major train hub along the railroad.”
At a time when most people made their living related to farming, the stockyards were a great source of community pride, a common theme expressed in Oral histories collected by Weber State University. These histories speak to the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that once made our community. This spirit is flourishing again in the property.
By 1922 an elegant Art Deco Exchange Building graced the entrance, denoting the livestock industry’s prestige. It was designed by architect Leslie S. Hodgson whose work greatly influence the city, including Ogden High and the Ogden City Municipal building.
In 1949, the equivalent of $1.3 billion passed through the stockyards. In time, however, rail gave way to trucking, commerce patterns changed, and the stockyard facility closed in 1971. About 600 jobs were lost and the numbers had been much higher at the peak during World War II.
Now a new Business Exchange industrial park is blooming on top of what had been rubble, and Ogden City is courting lifestyle and manufacturing companies to locate there. These companies today are as integral to Weber County’s culture as farming was a hundred years ago.
Watch this great video about the Business Exchange.
Every movement needs a first-mover, and on March 9, Enve Composites celebrated its tenth anniversary by opening its newly constructed, 73,000 square-foot production facility in the Business Exchange. Enve President and CEO Sarah Lehman said in a Deseret News Article, “ENVE is part of Ogden’s fabric. It’s part of who we are. We’ve seen ENVE grow while Ogden grows, and we’re growing in the same direction.” About the City’s strategy she added, “What is good for ENVE is typically good for Ogden, and vice versa.” (Related news: Enve was purchased by Amer Sports in February, 2016)
It was a flagship opening for the Business Exchange. When Enve welcomed its high-tech manufacturing employees to work in the gleaming new facility, it fulfilled Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell’s prediction that, “This is going to be a very unique lifestyle based manufacturing and production park.”
Larsen also painted the vision saying, “It is a lifestyle park. It is a business spark for outdoor recreation manufacturers or people that want their employees to…ride their bike to work on this gorgeous river parkway or take their lunch breaks and and stroll the parkway.” (Related news: IO Design Collaborative recently won the Lester Park redesign competition.)
Lehman also points out that the lovely location may help attract more young people to manufacturing. She said, “If we bring them in and show them (this environment) with people who care about each other…we can show them that it’s not our grandfather’s manufacturing.”
Although Lehman came onto the scene a century later, her entrepreneurial spirit, and Enve’s workforce are not so different than the combination of people who bustled around the stockyards a hundred years ago. We are still known as “makers” in roll-up-your-sleeves jobs. (Related news: “Movers and Shakers,” an interview with Lehman on www.cyclingtips.com)
Mayor Caldwell lights up talking about the stockyard property place as a great physical asset to our business community, “It is centrally located. You have access to the trails, to the river, easy access to transportation. Trucks can get in and out really easily.”
One day the historic Exchange Building will be restored to former glory, resuming its place as crown jewel in a thriving business hub.