The mere mention of the name Salgaa sends a chill down the spine of every motorist and traveller who frequently uses the busy Nakuru-Eldoret highway.
The name conjures up images of mangled vehicles and lost lives due to the many accidents that have occurred especially on the Sobea-Salgaa-Sachangwan stretch of the highway.
Besides road accidents, Salgaa has over the years become almost synonymous with prostitution and crime. It has also been listed as a flashpoint for ethnic clashes in the past.
This sad past has earned Salgaa town monikers such as road-accident black spot, ethnic-clashes flashpoint, jinxed town and prostitution haven.
The tide is, however, turning as Salgaa sheds its past of ill repute to become an industrial and commercial hub.
The town, which is 30 kilometres from Nakuru town on the way to Eldoret, is now home to more than four major companies. These include Sameer Agriculture and Livestock Limited, Simba Cement factory, Royal Group Industries and Ganglong International, a Chinese company that majors in roofing materials.
Mega Paper and Boards Company, which produces corrugated cartons and various types of paper for packaging different products, has also set up shop in Salgaa.
Sameer Agriculture and Livestock Limited, associated with the late billionaire Naushad Merali family, is already up and running in Sachangwan, a town near Salgaa town that was in the past more associated with fuel-tanker tragedies than commerce.
The Sh3 billion milk factory set up its base in Nakuru about four years ago.
The company, which is part of the Sameer Group, has a dairy processing plant that employs an estimated 500 people.
Apart from employing hundreds of youths, the plant provides a ready market that richly benefits dairy farmers in the South Rift region.
"Salgaa has for long been known as a prostitution paradise and an accident blackspot, with nothing good to offer. However, the area is fast shedding off the tag. It is now one of the fastest-growing areas in Nakuru. Salgaa's future seems bright, as it has a rich agricultural base that can support factories with raw materials and plenty of land," observed East African Chamber of Commerce, Industries and agriculture Director Njuguna Kamau.
In January last year, Devki Group's National Cement Company (NCC) launched Sh2 billion Simba cement factory in Salgaa, lifting the group's annual consolidated production capacity to two million tonnes.
The Sh6 billion plant, which has an annual capacity of 750,000 tonnes, employs an estimated 700 people.
The new Nakuru plant has heightened competition in the cement market, which has recently witnessed price wars due to expansion of existing firms and entry of new players.
In 2018, Royal Group Industries pumped Sh800 million into a steel factory that sits on a 22-acre piece of land.
Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the Salgaa area had been designated as an 'industrial hub' with the elevation of Nakuru town into a city.
"New investors will be encouraged to set up industries and other businesses in the fast-growing locality. I advise potential investors to take advantage of the expansive land and lower prices compared to Nakuru City," Mr Kinyanjui told the Nation.
The Nation established that five more factories, including an avocado processing plant, will soon start operations in Salgaa, which was once dominated by vast maize and wheat plantations.
According to Mr Kinyanjui, the emergence of Salgaa as an industrial hub will help protect the environment around Nakuru City. He cited Lake Nakuru, which is a key tourist attraction, as one of the key natural resources that need to be protected even as the Nakuru County government woos investors by improving the road network in Salgaa.
"We want to draw our industries out of town," the governor added.
Residents said the town would have grown faster had it not been neglected by the first county government of Nakuru.
"Salgaa was totally neglected and has been in a deplorable condition, with a poor drainage system and bad roads," said Ms Beatrice Kwamboka, a resident of Salgaa.
As the nightlife fades away due to the night curfew, the numerous clubs and guesthouses that once ruled the town have given way to commercial banks, restaurants, bank agencies, wholesale outlets, MPesa agent shops, salons, barbershops, clothes' shops, mini-supermarkets and other businesses.
"The town has immense business potential and is the next business hub for Nakuru County," said Mr Timothy Sanya, a businessman.
Agents of Co-operative Bank, Equity Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank and other lenders are already seeking a piece of the booming business centre.
As more people flock to the town, the demand for housing has risen sharply. This has seen the cost of housing shoot through the roof. To cash in on the rising demand, private developers are setting up both residential and business premises.
As a stopover town, Salgaa has over the years had a vibrant night life. Some of its famous night spots include Seasons Hotel and Lodge, Sunbird Lodge, Acacia Guest Lodge, Cheers Guest House, Samburu Guest House and Maralal-Ngari Hill Guesthouse.
The Nakuru-Eldoret highway is part of the Northern Corridor, the artery that connects Mombasa to Western Kenya and the landlocked countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.
The road is used to transport Western Kenya-bound cargo from the Port of Mombasa and Nairobi. Part of the cargo goes all the way to DR Congo.
Many long-distance truck drivers stop at this point to re-energise and refresh before proceeding with their long journeys.
Salgaa, which sprang up in 1994 with only two kiosks, derives its name from Kipsigis words Sal, which means praise. Gaa means home. So, Salgaa in Kalenjin means 'praising one's home'.
As an industrial hub, the town seems to be finally attaining a home status worthy of praise.
It is a stopover where drivers plying the Northern corridor re-energise and refresh before proceeding with their long journeys.
The hitherto 'jinxed' appears to be breaking from its tarnished reputation.
It neighbours several learning institutions and the rich agricultural fields of Molo,Kuresoi and Njoro
The area is attracting blue-chip companies, wholesale outlets, restaurants, MPesa outlets, salons, barbershops and clothes' shops, which are replacing clubs, bars and lodges.
Records indicate Salgaa is one of the key sources of revenue for the Nakuru County government and has potential to boost the devolved unit's revenue base.
Nakuru is a major source of raw materials for agricultural industries.
At least 70 per cent of land in Nakuru is agriculturally productive, with a huge capacity for livestock production, especially of dairy cows.
Nakuru is a leading producer of milk, potatoes, carrots, vegetables, pyrethrum, maize and wheat, among other products.
Molo, Subukia, Gilgil, Kuresoi South, Kuresoi North and Njoro are among agriculturally rich areas in the county.