In St. George, Utah, civic boosters are looking up.
A 200-foot mesa that borders downtown is turning into a business park called Tech Ridge.
The project is converting the old municipal airport into a mixed-use development featuring tech businesses, stores and restaurants, and homes for 2,000 people.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike told KNPR's State of Nevada that originally when the new airport was being built the plan was to convert the old airport into a housing development.
However, that was when the economic downturn was happening and the deal fell apart. Pike said after holding onto the property for several years, the city settled on the new plan.
“We decided, as we talked to local tech companies here, we got thinking probably the best thing we could do is to try to turn that property into a tech business park.”
Pike explained the area won't just be a place for office buildings but a place for people to live, work and play. The idea is not only to bring in new people but to keep young people from leaving the area.
One of the first buildings will be a new headquarters for St. George-based PrinterLogic, a 200-person company that manages printer networks for its clients.
Ryan Wedig is the CEO of PrinterLogic. He has worked in other tech hubs like Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. But when his business partner asked him to start a company using newly developed software, they decided to try St. George.
Wedig had lived in the area before and had planned to retire there eventually.
At first, St. George was a perfect location for the company but when it started to grow Wedig and his partner realized the city didn't have the infrastructure to accommodate a growing company.
Wedig said a lot of companies found the same thing and decided to move to Northern Utah or Silicon Valley.
“We had this huge drain going on,” he said.
Instead of moving, PrinterLogic decided to work with the city and developers to build on Tech Ridge.
Wedig said it was easy to recruit his first tier of employees by showing them the lifestyle they could enjoy in St. George. From there, they found people in the area that had the skills they needed but not the training.
“What we found really quickly was there were really incredibly talented, brilliant people that had kind of settled on a different level of economic standard because they just loved the lifestyle," he said, "This is where they wanted to raise their family.”
By training that group of people, Wedig said his team has created a loyal workforce that appreciates the effort put into developing a company in St. George, which is different from other tech hubs where Wedig said employees have a "hired gun mentality."
Tech Ridge could bring more than $1 billion in investment to the community, its backers say.
Allen Angell is the marketing director for Tech Ridge. He said crews are already taking out the old runway and bringing necessary utilities to the spot that he described as an "oversized aircraft carrier made out of earth."
“Among the many exciting things we’ve got planned for this very unique mixed-use planned development is a perimeter park system that will circumnavigate the outer perimeter that will take up a little over three miles,” Angell said.
He said the plan is to create a base of operations for tech companies.
“As we’ve begun to develop the vision, we’ve also realized how much convergence can happen among fellow tech companies to solve problems,” he said.
Because Tech Ridge is expected to be more than just an office park on top of a mesa, Angell believes there will be a culture where convergences can happen.
Jon Pike, mayor, St. George, Utah; Ryan Wedig, CEO, PrinterLogic; Allen Angell, marketing director, Tech Ridge
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