CEDAR CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox and other officials were on hand for Monday afternoon’s ribbon-cutting event for the Cedar City Business and Innovation Center.
The new center, located at 510 W. 800 South, is a partnership between Southwest Tech, Southern Utah University’s Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Business Center of Southern Utah, the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce and the Cedar City Economic Development Office.
Cox called the new center “a model for the rest of the state.”
“I would put this innovation center up against anything we have anywhere in the state of Utah,” he said during his brief remarks to the approximately 100 people in attendance.
Cox said that for many of the state’s early pioneer settlers, innovation was key to survival.
“It wasn’t just about creating a business and a thriving enterprise, it was just about surviving until the next year,” Cox said.
“And of course, necessity is the mother of innovation,” he added. “When you have to survive, you figure things out and you have to work together. Because if you don’t work together, you die. That’s kind of what happened. I’m so grateful for the lessons that were learned during those very difficult times, that have passed along. And I hope we never forget them.”
Besides just Utah pioneers, Cox said innovation and problem-solving have helped the nation make it through some difficult times.
“If you look back over the history of our country, especially every time we faced a major crisis or major challenge of any any sort, people come together,” he said. “And they innovate to solve for those problems. And that’s exactly what’s happening across the state of Utah.”
Cox said he was “very optimistic about the future” as a result of innovation.
“We have people with great ideas who are making a difference every day. … But it can only happen if we are willing to play in the sandbox together, if we’re willing to share our resources, our minds, and we’re willing to collaborate and work together to improve the lives of people around us.”
In addition to Cox, other featured speakers included Southwest Tech President Brennan Wood; Mary Pearson, dean of the SUU School of Business; and Danny Stewart, the economic development director for Cedar City and Iron County.
During Wood’s remarks, he cited the phrase “Better Together,” one of Southwest Tech’s own guiding principles.
“We’re not just a college, we’re a village,” he said. “We hold our community and our employers in high regard. We don’t compete, we collaborate. This center will bring people together, and together, we are better.”
Pearson said interest in entrepreneurship at SUU has seen explosive growth since the university’s Larry and Gail Miller Center for Entrepreneurship was established three years ago.
Where there were just 18 students in one entrepreneurship class before, the program now has 10 times that number of students enrolled, Pearson said, adding that those 180 current students represent 31 different majors across campus.
“I think this will be a learning institution for entrepreneurs and innovative bright thinkers to come and be able to share their ideas and really make them become a reality,” she said
Stewart said the center represents “the heart of the most important part of economic development in any community, and that’s local business growth and startup retention.”
“Building small business is really what our community and our country is built on,” he said. “And this center is so key. This helps me in my job. It helps everybody who’s across the hall here at the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center and the Women’s Business Center of Utah.”
“I hope everybody is ready to brace themselves,” Stewart added, “because we’re going to see some really amazing things come out of here. … We’re going to be seeing headlines and hearing stories of ideas that become huge and transformative for us, for our community and for the region.”
Isaac Askeroth, the center’s manager, said the idea is to provide comprehensive resources to help innovators learn and take their concept to implementation.
For example, he noted, not only can products be designed using the facility’s computers, prototypes can also be created via 3D printers, a sewing room and other available makerspace resources.
“They’ll be able to do all of that here,” Askeroth said.
The center’s hours are currently 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but may be expanded in the future.
Members of the public are invited to tour the new center during an open house scheduled for Thursday afternoon from 1-3 p.m.
For more information about the new business and innovation center, click here.
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