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Volvo Iron Key to Building ’The TRI Center’ in Nevada

Mon January 19, 2009 - West Edition
Ron Mullins

If you drive east from the casino city of Reno on Interstate 80, you’ll find yourself heading into a beautiful wilderness of high desert mountains covered in juniper and sage bushes where wild horses roam the rugged terrain. After about 9 mi. (15 km), you notice a highway under construction called USA Parkway, that leads, you’d imagine, straight into the middle of nowhere. Other than that all you can see is a high plateau, distant mountains, the blue sky and a scorching sun, but just over the crest of the hill, lies the site of what the developers hope will soon be the world’s largest industrial park.

Unknown to those passing through this former wild west territory, 1,000 people are currently hard at work constructing the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, known locally as “the TRI-center”. The scale of the project is breathtaking. The site, a one-time gold and silver mining camp, measures a gargantuan 502 million sq. yd. (420 million sq m), an area roughly eight times bigger than Manhattan and 150 times greater than the Disneyland theme park over the border in California. USA parkway, which is scheduled for completion in four years, will stretch for almost 19 mi. (30 km) to the “backdoor” of the park at Silver Springs.

The project is well advanced. Department store chain Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has built an enormous major distribution center at TRI, where it is joined by a number of other businesses, including a Pet Warehouse. In total, the park has secured the sale of more than 4.8 million sq. yd. (4 million sq m) of industrial land. To help feed these businesses, the first phase of a comprehensive road and railway network has been completed and the major thrust of the construction work has moved on to the adjoining valley.

Inevitably, the industrial park will have a major impact on local business and communities, providing thousands of new jobs and boosting the economy. Most customers are expected to be new businesses to the area, but local ones that relocate to build larger facilities will leave empty buildings in Reno and the neighboring city of Sparks. These will either be replaced with new businesses or bulldozed for other uses, such as housing or public projects.

The site’s co-owners, Lance Gilman and Roger Norman, are confident that by the end of the year they will have sold the first 24 million sq. yd. (20 million sq m) of the park. That area will be converted into 10.8 million sq. yd. (9 million sq m) of industrial buildings — a mere 5 percent of the entire park, but almost double the 6 million sq. yd. (5 million sq m) of industrial buildings currently in use in Reno and Sparks. The developers, who bought the site for $20 million in 1998 from Gulf Oil Co., are investing about $70 million in building roads and utility projects for the first phase of development alone.

Reno-based F&P Construction, one of Nevada’s premier development contractors, is spearheading the building work at the site.

“Initially we were just contracted to put the road into the park,” said President and Founder Randy Pitts, who has more thans 180 construction machines on his books. “Now we are doing everything the park needs … the railway spurs, the highway interchange, all the interior roads, the underground utilities, the sewer and water treatment plants, building site preparation, building tilt-up construction … just about everything that is needed here. Every day is a new and rewarding challenge.”

The TRI-center site is a challenging environment for both man and machine, working on exceptionally hard rock in temperatures that soar above 100 F in summer and plunge below freezing in winter.

“This is a serious job, with high demands and even higher expectations,” Dayton Pitts, vice president of operations at F&P. “We needed equipment that would get the job done and a dealer group that we could count on. We got both with Volvo and Arnold Machinery. I think we have seen a huge improvement in fuel efficiency and the overall efficiency of the iron. It’s as night is to day between Volvo and our previous equipment.”

F&P currently has four Volvo EC330B, two Volvo EC460B and one Volvo EC700B crawler excavator working on the site, and also owns several Volvo wheel loaders, a number of Volvo articulated haulers and two Volvo motorgraders. The company recently took delivery of two G990 motorgraders, with which it is very happy.

“The equipment is fantastic, it just runs and runs,” said Randy Pitts, who is in the process of switching his fleet to Volvo. “That is what we need. We don’t need to be working on the equipment all the time, we’ve got too much work in front of us for that to happen. The previous machines don’t do any more work than the Volvo and they cost more. So we just keep buying more and more Volvo. I’m very impressed.”

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