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YUMA, AZ-General Motors Corp. has leased 2,400 acres in the 86,000-acre Yuma Proving Grounds from the US Army. In lieu of rent, General Motors will build and operate a $100-million hot-weather, vehicle-testing facility and pay $10.6 million to the Army to build one to test heavy military vehicles.

Construction will begin in September on the property, located along US Hwy. 95 midway between Phoenix and San Diego. The GM facility will be completed and operational by May 2009. The development will consist of test tracks and buildings for support functions like administrative offices, fueling, washing and testing.

According to Jay Brown, managing director with the Army’s financial adviser Alvarez & Marsal Real Estate Advisory Services LLC, the deal between GM and the military has been in the talking stages for close to a decade. He says the need became particularly evident at the start of the second Gulf War. The just-signed lease has a 50-year term and two 25-year options.

Brown says the Army does have a hot-weather vehicle-testing facility at Yuma Proving Grounds, but it is 50 years old and outdated. “It was designed to test heavy, slow-moving vehicles,” Brown tells GlobeSt.com. “Survival in the Gulf War depends on fast-moving vehicles that can move at 90 to 100 miles per hour through the desert. One of the things that solidified the deal was that vehicles used by the Army in the Gulf War needed to be tested at high temperatures and at high speeds.”

Brown adds that the new test facilities, which have restricted air space, will enable the Army and GM to test lighter vehicles. In addition, the Army’s older facility will be retained and upgraded. Due its size and extreme temperatures, Yuma Proving Grounds is the only hot-weather site that the Army uses for vehicle testing.

GM’s plan is to replace its long-time 3,200-acre testing facility at 13303 S. Ellsworth Rd. in Mesa. The Detroit-based GM sold the property in November 2006 to an unidentified buyer.

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