A new business center opening in Cedar City had its ceremonial opening ribbon cut by Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday.
The Cedar City Business and Innovation Center is meant to provide a space for community members, students and businesses to come together to discuss entrepreneurial ideas, according to Brennan Wood, the president of Southwest Technical College.
Gov. Cox in his speech touted the center as a place that could be used as a "model" for other business centers to open in the state, saying he sees these centers as playing an important role in the state's economic future.
"This is the model for the rest of the state," Cox said. "This is how we future-proof our education system. It's how we future-proof our economy. We do that by working together and innovating together."
The Cedar City center is located on the grounds of Southwest Technical College but isn't technically an extension of the college since the center had many other partners in its opening. These partners include Southern Utah University, the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity, the office of economic development for Cedar City and Iron County as well as the Women's Business Center of Utah.
The center's main mission is to help people handle the early challenges of starting a small business and "promotes business creation, growth and retention through education, resources, mentoring, and connecting people to the right resources at the right time," according to its website.
The center does this by offering office space, professional equipment, opportunities for business guidance and businesses classes.
Cox said this center is a continuation of the innovative culture brought on by the early settlers of Utah who had to innovate with each other.
"If you don't work together, you die," he said. "That's that's kind of what happens."
Dozens of people were in attendance for the ceremony and there were a few brief speeches given before the ribbon-cutting. In addition to Cox's, speeches were given by Mary Pearson, the dean of the SUU School of Business, and Danny Stewart, the director of economic development for Cedar City and Iron County. All spoke glowingly of the potential of the center and the vast collaboration required between groups for the center to open.
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Dean Pearson spoke about the "entrepreneurial buzz" that's around Cedar City and Iron County and SUU students. She also brought up how the enrollment for entrepreneurship classes at SUU has grown in recent years, saying 180 students are currently enrolled in those classes.
Buzz or not, Iron County's economy has had positive trends in recent years. The median household income in Iron County rose by 6.7% in 2018 and 13.7% in 2019, according to the most recent data available from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
The department also found that Iron County has consistently kept up with the statewide average unemployment rates even after the coronavirus pandemic shut down a lot tourist-centric businesses. In September 2020, Iron County had an unemployment rate of 4.3% compared to the state average of 4.2% in the same month. Currently, the state average is 2.5% and the Iron County unemployment rate is 2.3%.
This center has been years in the making for Cedar City and will continue the economic development of the area, Stewart said in his speech. He also pointed to how Cedar City is already in a good position for business because of its proximity to regional transportation hubs such as I-15 and the Cedar City Airport.
Stewart says he expects to see "huge headlines and stories" from the people and businesses that use this center.
Among those in attendance were Garth Green, who recently was elected to become Cedar City's mayor in January, and Enoch Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut.
After the official ribbon-cutting, there was also a fly-over with three helicopters to cap off the event. After the fly-over, people who were in attendance were given a chance to walk through the center before its first official open house, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday.
"I'm very optimistic about the future, because of the innovation that is happening, not just across the country, but especially here in the state of Utah," Cox said to the packed room. "You are setting an example for this."
But at the end of his speech, Cox acknowledged he might view Cedar City through rose-tinted glasses because of the family connections he has to the city.
"I will put this innovation center with up against anything we have anywhere in the state of Utah. I'm a little biased because I have two kids that go to SUU," he said.
Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow on Twitter @seanhemmers34. Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: http://www.thespectrum.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Governor Cox cuts ribbon for new business center in Cedar City