The emergence of St. George as a Utah tech business player
While it’s clear that Salt Lake City will always be an important part of the economy in the Beehive State, there are other areas of Utah that are starting to come into their own and are contributing to the overall financial health of the entire region.
That is certainly true of St. George, and specifically an area being developed that’s known as Tech Ridge. In the future, it should have not only office space but also residences, a hotel, a recreational park, a grocery store, and even a brew pub among its amenities. It’s also going to feature an idea whose time has truly come: apartments or residences with built-in office space for working from home.
An article in Utah Business goes into more detail on how St. George is trying to become the next big center of tech, and how that effort is going in today’s business climate. First Utah Bank has its own high-tech methodology for helping businesses: our mobile banking solutions that bring convenience and security to businesses of any size.
If you build it, will they come?
The ambitious plans of St. George’s Tech Ridge are being drafted by Issac Barlow, an entrepreneur from Salt Lake City who started a company called Busybusy that provides heavy equipment for construction projects. While developing that company, he started to think about ways to make Southern Utah the place to go when seeking a change in career and lifestyle, similar to his own story of moving to St. George.
He wasn’t the only one who had this idea. Leaders and business developers in St. George were already thinking of developing a tech center to help answer the concerns of lower wages in this part of Utah and a lack of jobs for recent graduates from the region’s technical schools. Barlow and these leaders decided to join forces in order to try and make something like Tech Ridge work.
The beautiful scenery of the area is an important part of the appeal. As Kyle Wells – dean of Dixie State University College of Business – points out, the already bourgeoning tech community in St. George was using scattered office space or homes as its developing ground. “Tech Ridge creates a place to grow, but more importantly, it is a statement that St. George is not only a great place to recreate, it is also a great place to grow a business,” says Wells.
Businesses are starting to flock to St. George
There are already several key players in the Utah tech industry that also think Tech Ridge is a good idea and they are making moves to be a part of it. One of those is Zonos, a tax technology business. Its CEO, Clint Reid, told Utah Business that the idea of creating an all-encompassing experience is important to attracting the right type of employees for his business.
“The experience of Southern Utah helps; however if we don’t have the entire package of live, work, and play, we will miss on delivering the future of work,” Reid says. “Tech Ridge, and the environment it will provide, delivers an experience you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the country and even the world. More importantly, Southern Utah won’t have to export as many young talented workers that currently leave for Northern Utah or other areas of the country to find the right job opportunities.”
It’s clear that Tech Ridge is somewhat modeled on Silicon Slopes, the Salt Lake City area grandaddy of such a concept. One of Silicon Slopes’ founders, Dave Elkington, believes that Tech Ridge is part of the next generation of companies wanting to bring talent to the region.
“You recruit people in and you train people within a region,” Elkington explains. “They raise venture money or some kind of external capital―that’s a huge boost on a local economy because that capital in tech companies, 80-90 percent of it, goes into employee salaries. That drives up the local economy’s salary wage, so with each generation of tech companies, that happens.”
One person who agrees with this prediction is Kelle Stephens, the president of Dixie Technical College. She believes the companies that decide to go all-in on Tech Ridge will have a huge impact on the region and will give opportunities to young people who will be the true future of Utah.
“Dreams will fuel the Washington County economy as developments in technology take future realities beyond our wildest current imaginations,” Stephens says. “The tech college campus was designed and built to convey a message of excellence and innovation to students, employers, and the community at large.”
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