City works with higher education to facilitate growing tech, industrial sectors

In this January 2016 file photo, St. George Mayor Jon Pike (center) attends a groundbreaking ceremony celebrating the construction of a new building that will house all of Dixie Applied Technology College programs under one roof at the Ridge Top Complex, St. George, Utah, Jan. 14, 2016 | Photo by Julie Applegate, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As Washington County’s growth continues unabated, so do important sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and technology. Finding and developing talent to fill those industries is a challenge both city government and colleges are actively addressing.

Industrial sector

Manufacturing companies and the jobs they bring to the region are as numerous as they’ve ever been, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.

Three industrial parks, including Fort Pierce, Mill Creek and the original St. George industrial park, house an array of manufacturing and fabrication companies.

Equipment sits unused inside the manufacturing department at YESCO, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News
Equipment at the manufacturing department at YESCO, St. George, Utah, May 1, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“If you go for a drive out there, there’s a ton of stuff going on,” Pike said of the lesser-traveled areas of industry in the city.

Some of the larger production plants include Czarnowski, which builds high-end displays for major companies such as Buick, General Dynamics and Lockheed; Dean Foods, which reopened the Blue Bunny plant after it closed in September 2014; Viracon, which produces architectural glass products and Innovative Yacht Builders, which recently set up shop in the old YESCO location.

“Twenty years ago, we didn’t have almost any of those,” Pike said.

The city is working to keep those companies in the area by partnering with Dixie Applied Technology College to provide more certificates and programs in the trades.

Ram Company has operated in St. George for over 40 years designing electromechanical devices. It has recently begun expanding and is looking to fill high-tech positions like engineering.

The Dixie State University’s College of Science and Technology is growing and plans to introduce an engineering degree are in the works in order to fill jobs openings like those at Ram Company with community talent, Pike said.

“I would say manufacturing is doing really well in St. George and Washington County, and we’re grateful to have them.”

Technology

While the industrial sector is firmly in place, the city is looking to the future to attract more companies to the already growing tech industry in the region.

We want to do what we’ve done with manufacturing with technology and have a place for them,” Pike said.

The proliferation of tech companies in the region is already strong, with around 100 different businesses in the region.

Some of the major representatives of the tech industry include mobile application developers busybusy and Rocketmade, web developer Velocity Webworks and print solutions company Print Logic.

Though the services these companies provide vary greatly, one thing they all have in common is plans to expand and greatly grow employment numbers.

The challenge now is providing those companies with talent. Eric Pedersen, dean of Science and Technology at Dixie State University, said he is regularly contacted by companies looking for employees.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have a CEO or chief technology officer from the private sector who either calls or emails and says, ‘I need some talent,’” Pedersen said. “They’re desperate for talent. There’s a significant number of jobs that are not being filled.”

The university is taking a proactive approach to this talent gap, looking to educate the next generation to fill these high-paying positions.

A girl works on an optical drive at a Girls go Digital camp, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls go Digital, St. George News
A girl works on an optical drive at a “Girls go Digital” camp, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls go Digital, St. George News

The school runs about a dozen outreach programs aimed to garner youth interest in programming, web development, digital design and information technology.

An eight-week summer bootcamp program immerses students in programming languages. This program has already proven successful, Pedersen said, with graduates able to find entry level coding positions by the end of it.

Other outreach programs aim to bring in underrepresented demographics, such as “Girls Go Digital,” a three-day program for girls and young women ages 8-18.

Graduates from DSU’s computer and information technology department have robust job opportunities in the region, and those opportunities are only growing, Pedersen said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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