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Davis and Weber Counties
Alex, tell us about the new accelerator at WSU.
LAWRENCE: We partnered with Ogden City and EDA and bought a building in downtown Ogden. The ground floor is going to be a campus store. The second and third floors are a community “co-working” space that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For $50 a month you can come in and work with a variety of other entrepreneurs on primarily technology-oriented businesses. We’re going to be teaching classes there that are not available at university or technology colleges. We’re trying to incentivize these young startup companies and entrepreneurs to come hang out and work up there.
Steve, talk a little bit about Grow Utah and Grow America.
CLOWARD: We’ve had an opportunity over the last six years, since the inception of the Business Resource Center on the campus of the Davis Applied Technology College, to work with a lot of business partners and service providers, including Grow Utah Ventures, which is probably one of the most active economic development engines in the state. They have fostered a lot of activities, like our concept-to-company contests. The key there is finding the resources that can take them to that next level, beyond the concept to the company stage.
When our organization was founded, Grow Utah Ventures led an initiative called SEED Weber Davis Morgan. That organization ascertained that it was basically finding the idea, finding the talent to make it happen, finding the funding and finding the resources to serve as mentors and advisors. That activity is well and strong, but there’s still lots of challenges out there in this particular economy.
The funding side is still very, very tight. We look for sources constantly. The idea of the leverage versus equity is very real. Before, angel investors would be willing to step up and fund a concept; today they want to see more of a track record, more of a finished product. They want to put their money behind more of a proven concept than what we used to see. I think that was a direct result of some of the economic changes that we saw.
How is USTAR impacting entrepreneurial efforts here?
LAWRENCE: In the last couple of years, through USTAR, we’ve brought in about $700,000 in cash for startups in Northern Utah to help get their businesses off the ground. This year we’ve done about $200,000. And that’s real cash. It’s $25,000 to $50,000 that goes to these startups to get their businesses going. They’ve got some traction, they’ve got a prototype. It’s not just some random person with an idea. They have a fighting chance of becoming a real business. These are things that, if they work, are going to produce many millions of dollars in revenue.
Let’s talk about the Achilles heel that we have in Northern Utah—Hill Air Force Base.
Downs: In Davis County our biggest employer is Hill Air Force Base, and that’s one of the elephants in the room that we need to talk about, because we can grow all these other jobs—and we’ll continue to do that—but we need to talk about what this group can do to continue to protect the base. We are on the edge of our own kind of a cliff, and we need to ensure that the military, and especially Hill Air Force Base, is protected because that will really affect our economy. The whole thing is really tied to that.
RICHINS: Right now, the situation with the Military Installation Development Authority, MIDA, is we’ve got a six-inch gap: there’s six inches between the pen of prospective tenants in buildings and the paper to actually write on. What’s holding up that gap is what Congress is going to do on defense spending.
The developers that are partnered with us on the base, Woodbury Corporation and Hunt Development—the Falcon Hill group—are ready and chomping to go, and have a number of government contractors ready to go when they can get the go-ahead from their board. But the boards are saying, “Whoa. Let’s see where we are with regard to sequestration and defense spending.”
That’s really all that’s holding us up—if we could just get them to drop down and sign an earnest money agreement for some space. The developers of Falcon Hill will not build a spec building unless they’ve got some good, solid tenants. That’s their attitude.
Those of you who have gone past there, you’ve seen a big, new building. It’s the Northrup Grumman building. It’s included in our project area. One unique thing about that building is that we were able to collect taxes on that this year. So of that whole development, this is the first year that there will be taxes generated. MIDA is a 500-acre development that was established by the Legislature in 2007 to take advantage of the Enhanced Use Lease program that’s in the defense department.