Dixie State University and Southern Utah University recently received a $1.43 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, and Washington counties.
As part of the grant, the universities will partner with the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) on programming and services related to growing the region’s deep technology and science clusters.
“Dixie State University and Southern Utah University are making essential steps to ensure economic diversification and advancement in southern Utah and greater rural Utah,” said Don Willie, executive director of Dixie State’s Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurial (TIE) Center. “We look forward to collaborating with USTAR through this program to further build an innovation infrastructure that will support science and deep technology entrepreneurs off the Wasatch Front.”
With the grant, the two universities will offer robust programming and coordination to bridge the urban-rural divide in Utah. While urban Utah, primarily counties located along the Wasatch Front, has experienced robust economic growth over the past decade, rural areas of the state have either lagged behind or experienced recession.
The EDA grant will fund programs focused on advancing high-growth entrepreneurship, cultivating innovation, encouraging business expansion, and developing a high-skilled workforce in the southern Utah region. In addition, USTAR will provide personnel support for the institutions to lend deep tech commercialization expertise.
“The partnership between DSU, SUU, and USTAR on this EDA grant is powerful,” said Willie. “This award affirms the effectiveness of the collaborative approach our organizations are taking to grow businesses in counties off the Wasatch Front. Together, we will provide a one-stop-shop resource center that will establish new businesses, create jobs, and launch new products and technologies.”
Programs will complement and support regional and statewide economic development initiatives, including Governor Gary R. Herbert’s 25,000 Jobs Initiative and the Five County Association of Governments’ Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). In particular, calls for the creation of “higher paying, lucrative jobs,” and to “diversify the local and regional economy,” two key areas of USTAR expertise will be utilized in the universities’ initiatives.
St. George, Utah
USTAR, focused exclusively on technology-based economic development in Utah, is diversifying local economies through five targeted sectors: aerospace, automation and robotics, big data and cybersystems, energy and clean technology, and life sciences.
Companies in these technology sectors tend to create high-quality, above-average salary jobs. In 2017, the average wage of fulltime jobs created by USTAR-supported companies was almost $90,000 per year.
Additionally, as part of the program, USTAR will conduct a market assessment in partnership with the universities to determine the capacity and potential for growth of deep science and technology sectors in southern Utah.
“USTAR delivers a professional level of service that is typically not available in rural areas in other states,” said Willie. “With so much innovation happening in garages, living rooms and co-working spaces, USTAR will be able to help identify and take new technologies to market that will drastically impact our economic vibrancy.”
DSU and SUU were among only 20 colleges and universities in 13 states to receive grant funding. The University Center program is a competitively based partnership between the EDA and academic institutions to use university resources to support regional economic development in regions suffering from economic distress.
“We have long known that economic diversification spurs more efficient economic growth, as well as helps economies better weather recessions,” said Willie. “Innovative state, higher education, non-profit, and industry institutions are leading the way to ensure Utah’s economic diversification within our technology sectors, and we look forward to supporting new initiatives that will spur deep technology growth in Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane, and Washington counties.”