Join a community conversation with The Tribune about Point of the Mountain as a breeding ground for innovation.
This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
Can 600 acres in the middle of the suburbs be a think center?
The ambitions behind the development of the old Utah State Penitentiary site at Draper could not be greater. A “15-minute city” is planned, in which people can live, work, shop and play within walking distance. And if it’s more than a walk, there are electric buses. Electricity comes from batteries and geothermal energy. Nature will feature prominently in open spaces and a trail that leads from the Jordan River to the Wasatch Mountains.
It is meant to be a physical representation of what the future could be.
But the vision for The Point goes beyond a demonstration project. The state wants it to be a meeting place for the brightest minds from academia and industry to address the most pressing societal issues.
The first 160-hectare phase includes an “Innovation District,” which the project’s master plan describes as “a place that fosters a culture of creativity and ingenuity, attracts outstanding talent and investment, encourages solution-oriented research, and fosters the growth of promising early childhood development companies.” , removes regulatory barriers and facilitates interdisciplinary partnerships between industry and academia to develop and commercialize new ideas.”
The key to that dream lies in connecting the state’s robust research facilities, said Jefferson Moss, a state legislator who works for the Utah System of Higher Education and serves as project manager for the Point’s Innovation District.
“It’s a collaborative space,” said Moss, adding that the innovation district will center around a “convergence hall” for meetings and presentations.
Moss cites healthcare and technology as an example where different disciplines come together. “We know that health technology is becoming a much larger field. It is the merging of these two realms.”
“We want the technologies we focus on to improve the quality of life in Utah and have an impact on the world,” said Theresa Foxley, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.
EDCU’s role is to attract the right companies to the project, drawing on innovative companies inside and outside the state.
“We want it to be sticky,” Foxley said, referring to industries that are less attractive to offshore competitors. That includes aerospace and defense, but also critical industries where the United States wants to increase domestic production, like batteries and other energy technologies. She also looks for places where Utah has a natural advantage, such as tax policies or natural resource requirements.
‘What’s the point?’ Discussion at Silicon Slopes
“What’s the Point? Utah’s Laboratory for Innovation” is a community talk exploring the development of the old Utah State Penitentiary site at Draper into an incubator for modern solutions. The event will take place November 30 at 4 p.m. in Silicon Slopes , 2600 West Executive Parkway, Suite 140, Lehi The intent is to bring Utah universities together on site to develop solutions to a variety of challenges facing Utah residents across the state What will this mean? We’ll find out in this conversation, sponsored by The Salt Lake Tribune and Rocky Mountain Power, and streaming on sltrib.com, with participants including Theresa Foxley, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, Jefferson Moss, Project Manager of the Point Innovation District and State Assemblyman, and James Campbell, Director of Innovation and Sustainability Policy k at PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain Power. Tribune renewable energy reporter Tim Fitzpatrick will moderate. Interested parties can register at www.eventbrite.com/e/whats-the-point-utahs-laboratory-for-innovation-tickets-468006288407.
Foxley said they are still in the early stages of evaluating the best industry fits. “We’re going through the discovery process.” (The demolition of the old prison will begin next week, and construction is slated to begin next year.)
She said she wants to align with the governor’s Office of Economic Opportunities’ sector priorities: financial services, information technology, life sciences, aerospace and defense, and advanced manufacturing.
She sees the Point’s role in research and development to support manufacturing rather than as home to manufacturing facilities.
They are looking for “emerging but promising technologies” that government research and support could help. “It’s a big risk to operate on the verge of bleeding. We try to mitigate this risk by demonstrating that there is market support.”
Moss said they are also joining the state’s Talent Ready initiative to train workers to identify the skills needed by these emerging industries. And that requires coordination with all 16 colleges in the Utah System of Higher Education, including applied technology programs. Not all of these talents require college education.
“From lab technicians to graduate students,” he said.
Tim Fitzpatrick is a renewable energy reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune, a position funded by a grant from Rocky Mountain Power. The Tribune retains overall control of editorial decisions independent of Rocky Mountain Power.
https://www.sltrib.com/renewable-energy/2022/11/24/can-old-prison-site-be-gathering/ Can the old jail be a meeting place for Utah’s brightest minds?