ST. GEORGE — A St. George couple has donated to Dixie State University’s Atwood Innovation Plaza in support of its mission of enabling aspiring and established entrepreneurs.
The couple, Scott and Kristin Nielson, have established themselves as innovators and entrepreneurs in Southern Utah. Along with his brother, Mike Nielson, Scott Nielson built a successful RV dealership from the ground up. In addition to his business achievements, Scott Nielson is actively involved in the St. George area community, focusing on giving back, supporting others and backing other private enterprise efforts.
In tandem with this mentality, he and his wife have embraced another local project that shares the same philosophy. Upon the announcement of the sale of his 6th Nielson RV business to Marcus Lemonis of Camping World, the Nielsons gifted Dixie State University’s Atwood Innovation Plaza with a substantial contribution in March. This was one of multiple donations to the plaza, going back to August 2018.
“We believe that the education system is flawed and students are not necessarily taught the real world inside the classroom,” Scott Nielson said. “Innovation Plaza allows the student to bring their ideas to fruition from a thought to a reality. The Atwood Innovation Plaza helps students set up companies and create their ideas through innovative workshops, CNC machines, 3D imaging and creation, and so much more. I wish Innovation Plaza existed when I attended DSU as a youth. I would encourage anyone interested in engineering, innovation, invention and business to seek out Innovation plaza.”
According to Colby Jenkins, director of the Atwood Innovation Plaza, the Nielsons’ contribution extends beyond monetary assistance.
“Scott and Kristin Nielson’s generosity represents exactly what makes the Innovation Plaza special,” Jenkins said. “They are not only giving back to the plaza, and the university by extension, they remain engaged, sharing ideas, offering mentorship and seeking more ways to help. Their example to other entrepreneurs working in the plaza inspires hope and a drive to continue working hard. Scott and Kristin truly let their actions speak louder than any words. We are grateful to have their support.”
Atwood Innovation Plaza
Located at 453 S. 600 E. Street in St. George, Atwood Innovation Plaza is part of Dixie State University, but it’s not limited to students. It’s also a hands-on gathering place for members of the community and aspiring business owners.
Anyone can rent private offices, open areas or podcast rooms at the plaza’s 55,000 square foot campus, which houses the following four primary services:
- Business Research Center sponsored by Zions Bank: Planning and preparation, business consultations.
- Makerspace: Create prototypes, attend workshops.
- Research and guidance: Protect concepts with patents, trademarks, copyrights.
- Startup incubator: Beyond the basics with in-depth research on market size, customer focus, et cetera.
Innovation Plaza success stories
While Innovation Plaza has only been around for a few years, its influence is already quantifiable, including a major effort to stamp out water scarcity.
Along with cofounder Zack Manweiler, Hunter Manz, a DSU student and founder/CEO of Eden Technologies, secured $100,000 in funding for their innovation. The project is designed to remove salt from ocean water for clean drinking water. Scott Nielson met with the two young entrepreneurs where they displayed a functioning prototype, and Nielson pledged a commitment to the Eden project in an effort to help spur the project along.
The young men also met with a top government official from Sadia Arabia, who made a special trip to meet the innovators and see the prototype in action. Currently the desalination machine is being tested for six months before a potential contract with the country.
Finding solutions during pandemic
Innovators that emerged from the plaza during the COVID-19 pandemic worked to come up with multiple solutions to rapidly emerging problems.
Soft Cell Biological Research is part of the Innovation Plaza family and developed a fast and affordable COVID-19 saliva testing system with 24-hour results.
Healthcare facilities in Southern Utah also took advantage of ventilator splitters. The splitters allowed multiple patients to share a single ventilator and were produced through Innovation Plaza’s 3D printing equipment.
Nielson’s road to success
Over the years, Scott Nielson has been involved in various business endeavors, starting with RV sales back in 1997. At the time, he was selling them out of Bob’s Enterprises in Hurricane, in a small dilapidated building before partnering with his brother Mike to launch their first Nielson RV location.
Nielson RV expanded with showrooms in Hurricane, Salt Lake City and on the I-15 corridor in St. George. The chain quickly became the predominant RV dealership in Southern Utah, a feat that didn’t go unnoticed by national players. In March, Scott Nielson announced the sale of Nielson RV to the U.S. retail giant Camping World.
Following the sale, the Nielsons have focused on giving back, with their recent donation to the Innovation Plaza resulting from that deal.
Scott Nielson’s latest project, Glampers Inn in Hurricane, just north of Sand Hollow State Park, will also contribute financially to the plaza. A portion of the profits from the resort will go to support young entrepreneurs at the Innovation Plaza. The resort is expected to open later this year.
Visit DSU’s website for more information about Atwood Innovation Plaza.
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