A grant of $875,048 from the U.S. Economic Development Association was presented for the development of Innovation Plaza and matched by Dixie State University Trustees Lindsay and Laura Atwood.
The combined grant and donation amount to $1.75 million and will aide Innovation Plaza with installing a 10,000 square-foot laboratory for doing research in the medical, environmental and biotechnology fields.
“[The grant] does not cover construction [or] renovation,” said Kyle Wells, Dean of business and communication. “That’s what we’re working on now and are receiving numerous inquiries and raising funds for the renovation.”
According to a press release from June 21, the project’s ability to install both the laboratory and a 60,000 square-foot entrepreneurial maker space was made possible through regional planning efforts of the Five County Association of Governments funded by the EDA.
“Innovation Plaza would not be possible without this grant,” Executive Director Don Willie said. “The effort that went into securing the grant really was the catalyst to move the facility forward.”
Director of sponsored programs, Sylvia Bradshaw, said the Five County Association of Governments, several key community members, city officials, DSU faculty members, and business leaders attended a meeting held by Wells to brainstorm about the project and gauge the amount of support.
According to its website, the EDA’s mission is to lead the federal economic development agenda through the promotion of innovation and competitiveness in order to prepare the nation’s regions for success and growth in the worldwide economy.
The EDA has an open subscription grant called the Economic Adjustment Assistance, which assists state and local interests in the design and implementation of strategies to adjust or bring change to a region’s economy.
“We started working with the EDA in August of last year,” Wells said. “They were really interested in Innovation Plaza because despite the growth, and despite all the great things that are happening in Southern Utah, we are on their database as an economically distressed region.”
An economically distressed region is defined as a region in which 40 percent or more of the residents living in that region have an annual income at or below the poverty level. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, the poverty level in St. George as of 2016 was 15.5 percent.
“[Innovation Plaza] is a one stop shop when it comes to launching a business,” Willie said. “An individual really can take something from an idea to a successful business and get all of the resources in one building.”
The goal of Innovation Plaza is to provide a place where individuals of varying walks of life can take an idea they have, design it, build it and turn it into a business. This grant enables Innovation Plaza to be one step closer to realizing that goal.