FEATURE —The old airport runway near downtown St. George has taken on new life since Dixie Technical College opened its main campus overlooking the city in March 2018. The presence of the college has motivated several top technology companies in the area to relocate on the old airport hill and become part of what the tech community is calling “Tech Ridge.”
Recently, the city of St. George, in collaboration with several tech companies in the area, developed a long-term plan for Tech Ridge, which includes commercial and retail space, restaurants, hotels and residential living. Marc Mortensen, support services director for the city, says Tech Ridge is much more than a business park.
“We are talking about 2000 residents living there with amenities, commercial businesses, retail stores, restaurants and more,” he said. “It’s really an extension of downtown.”
In many ways, Tech Ridge is the complete package when it comes to the future of Southern Utah. It sets the stage for children and young adults who are interested in entrepreneurship and technology, providing them the opportunity to remain in the area after graduation, find a high-paying job and enjoy all the perks of a typical tech hub. It also entices companies, groups and individuals involved in the tech industry to consider relocating to St. George.
Ryan Wedig, CEO and cofounder of PrinterLogic, is looking forward to his company’s relocation to Tech Ridge.
“We have outgrown our current space,” he explained. “As we looked for locations in St. George, there weren’t many options available for the size we needed. Tech Ridge solves several challenges for us. To build a company in St. George, there are a lot of amazing assets — lifestyle being number one — and a fairly robust tech community that is starting to grow.
“As we recruit talent both locally and abroad, Tech Ridge not only solves the infrastructure challenge, it can communicate a lifestyle and bring a community together.”
Wedig notes that Utah has a rich history of entrepreneurship and technology.
“I call it the Word Perfect and Novell dandelion effect,” he said. “There are a lot of really amazing entrepreneurs that want to stay in Utah for various reasons. In northern Utah, you are seeing saturation from a cost and talent perspective. Those costs are going up rapidly.
“We can create Tech Ridge as a release valve for some of that pressure in a place with world-class views and lifestyle. We don’t want to become northern Utah, but we can create a beautiful garden.”
Mortensen says the development is currently focused on the north end of Tech Ridge.
“We are currently in Phase I, which is roughly a 30-acre piece of property adjacent to Dixie Technical College. A building pad has been cleared for PrinterLogic, and we expect them to begin construction on their building this winter,” Mortensen said. “I think it won’t be long, possibly this spring or early summer, and we’ll see busybusy’s new building going up there as well. There’s a lot of energy right now. There’s a lot of buzz.”
This energy has led to many national and international entities taking notice of St. George and Tech Ridge. Isaac Barlow, co-founder of busybusy and managing member for the developer, Tech Ridge LLC, has been highlighting the project at speaking engagements across the country. Barlow describes a space that will house multiple tech companies surrounded by residential neighborhoods, restaurants and hotels.
“The plan is to build a really incredible environment that’s a work-live-play development that takes advantage of an extensive park and creative environment that can really attract and retain top talent in the area,” Barlow said.
Clint Reid, CEO and founder of Zonos, says he believes that Tech Ridge will provide a centralized location to collaborate and grow with other tech companies. He projects that with cloud computing industry and technology, many impactful companies will move to St. George because they don’t have to be in a large city anymore.
“Tech Ridge will attract the talent and network that will bring companies to St. George larger than St. George could ever imagine,” he said. “Zonos is a global company in St. George. Other global companies are here and will continue to come. The good news for St. George is that it will be easier than ever to start a tech business or be involved in tech because of the talent in entrepreneurship and technology that Tech Ridge brings.”
The city is working to improve Tech Ridge Drive. It will become the main boulevard threading through the entire project, with several side roads tying in to it. Mortensen is looking forward to the new architecture that will arise.
“I think one of the unique things about it is we’ll probably see architecture there that we haven’t seen in St. George before,” he said. “That’s kind of exciting. Not that it’s going to be this massive conglomerate of glass buildings, but there will be some pretty substantial architecture there that we’ve not yet seen.
“Of course, everyone who has been up on the ridge realizes that there are views in every direction. It’s a pretty inspiring place to be. I think Dixie Technical College set the stage when they built their building, and I think Tech Ridge wants to take it from there and go beyond.”
Written by JARED DUPREE, St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
This article first published in Southern Utah Business magazine.