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Dixie State University’s Innovation Plaza Receives $1.75 Million in Funding

St. George– Dixie State University recently received more than $1.75 million in support of Innovation Plaza, thanks to a $875,048 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and a matching donation from Lindsay and Laura Atwood.

The contributions will support the purchase of equipment for an entrepreneurial makerspace and a biotech, medical and environmental testing lab, located in the Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (TIE) Center at Innovation Plaza. The additions will stimulate the Southern Utah economy by adding more resources to Innovation Plaza, a hub for support, guidance and education on innovation initiatives. Through the efforts of the TIE Center and its affiliates, it is expected 260 jobs will be added to the regional economy within 9 years, help area businesses operate more efficiently and create higher-paying jobs.

“Innovation Plaza will be another positive step and powerful addition to diversifying jobs in the local Utah economy,” Bryan Thiriot, executive director of Five County Association of Governments, said. “This grant will enable entrepreneurship, innovation and biotechnologies to continue to expand in the region and be a benefit to future job growth.”

The largest grant Dixie State has received through the Economic Development Agency, the investment award was made possible by the early and continued support of Sen. Orrin Hatch as well as regional planning efforts led by the Five County Association of Governments. Additionally, the Atwoods’ generous donation played a pivotal role in Dixie State receiving the EDA grant, as the administration requires institutions to contribute a fifty-fifty match to the grant.

“I commend Dixie State and Five County Association of Governments for bringing together bio tech start-ups and growing companies to develop this cutting-edge approach to supporting life sciences sector growth,” Hatch said. “I was honored to facilitate this great partnership with EDA and to support bringing high paying jobs to Southwestern Utah.”

The high-tech equipment funded by this grant, such as 3-D printers and woodworking equipment, will be available for community use, as Innovation Plaza will be open to all area residents. Located in the former East Elementary building across from Trailblazer Stadium, Innovation Plaza will open when building renovations are complete.

“I am thrilled that Dixie State University has been awarded grant funding for Innovation Plaza. I toured the property last summer and was already in awe over the plans for its future,” Rep. Chris Stewart said. “This funding is important to complete a facility that will create opportunities for students and the community to advance in technology, research and business.”

The 6,000 square-foot entrepreneurial makerspace within Innovation Plaza will be a center for skills training that focuses on expanding technology initiatives and innovation in the region. As part of this effort, Dixie State’s Director of Innovation Guidance and Solutions Dr. Wayne Provost, who has worked on hundreds of patents and founded and owned a dozen companies, helps students and community members develop their ideas from concepts to patented products and marketable business propositions.

The research lab, a 10,000 square-foot facility, will host Soft Cell Biological Research, a company that works with Dixie State interns to conduct groundbreaking research to develop antibiotics to treat autoimmune diseases. Soft Cell has gained international attention since becoming the first company of its kind to culture L-form bacteria.

“I have seen the incredible growth and groundbreaking innovation that has taken place at Dixie State University’s Innovation Plaza under the adept leadership of President Williams and was inspired to get involved,” Lindsay Atwood, a businessman and member of DSU’s Board of Trustees, said. “The economic development Innovation Plaza will facilitate will absolutely change the landscape of Southern Utah, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved.”

As the center of the momentum for Washington County’s economic development, Innovation Plaza will create synergy by housing a variety of resources that cultivate an environment in which innovative companies can thrive. For example, the plaza will house the Business Resource Center to help entrepreneurs form business plans, secure financing and locations, and iron out the logistics associated with creating a business. Additionally, the facility will include an Incubation Hub in which innovators can congregate to share ideas and helpful tips and temporarily rent offices as they get their companies off the ground.

Reaching the new generation of innovators, Innovation Plaza also will house Ace Academy, a STEM magnet program for gifted and talented high school students sponsored by the Washington County School District, Dixie State University and SUCCESS Academy.

“We are thrilled that Innovation Plaza is garnering the attention and investment of leaders throughout our community, the state and in federal agencies,” Don Willie, executive director of the TIE Center and regional director of SBDC, said. “This grant and the generous contribution from Trustee Atwood moves us that much closer to opening the doors of innovation plaza to students and the community.”