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Startup Ogden offers space for budding entrepreneurs

(Source: Only in Ogden) Alex Lawrence,
(Source: Only in Ogden) Alex Lawrence, vice provost for Innovation & Economic Development at Weber State University, speaks during the grand opening of Weber State Downtown, home of Startup Ogden.
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(Source: Only in Ogden) Five members of Startup Ogden gather around a laptop at the Weber State Downtown building. Startup Ogden is a central hub for developing ideas into businesses.

Startup Ogden grew from small roots with the dreams of building a business hive. With help from Ogden City and Weber State University, graduates and entrepreneurs with big ideas can blossom those into business ventures.

According to Tom Christopoulos, Ogden’s director of community and economic development, Utah universities rank eighth in the export of STEM graduates, and he hopes to keep them in Ogden.

“Typically, within that creative class of jobs, there are designers, engineers, software programmers and those types of folks,” Christopoulos said. “We wanted that to be a core of our future foundation for job creation. So in the future, those jobs become the feature companies that emerge in Ogden.”

Christopoulos said Startup Ogden is one way of getting the intellectual knowledge from the campus into the community, and “basically turns the notion of academic learning into a practical business venture.” He projected that, over 15 years, 750 jobs could be created from ventures like Startup Ogden.

“It’s an economic driver; it’s in line with our strategic plan of creating high-paying, high-tech jobs,” said Brandon Cooper, Ogden’s deputy director of community and economic development.

“Ogden is known for its manufacturing cluster; we are also known for our aerospace cluster. We want to start developing high-tech, high-paying jobs in our downtown so that we can create a cluster around that as well.”

Cooper said Startup Ogden is part accelerator, part incubator and part community. Start-up businesses or entrepreneurs with ideas can get involved and begin to grow their ideas into functioning businesses alongside like-minded people.

Startup Ogden was in the spotlight during the grand opening of the Weber State Downtown building, which houses the venture. Although Ogden City was instrumental during the developmental phase of Startup Ogden, the city is taking a back seat to the action.

“We’re just out there to promote the notion of innovation and creativity and hoping that those things will eventually grow and grow,” Christopoulos said. “In 5-10 years from now, we will see if we are where we think we should be. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

WSU students may also benefit from involving themselves with Startup Ogden by taking Continuing Education courses in web development and tech business at the Weber State Downtown location. Students can participate in the Startup Ogden accelerator program and collaborate with industry leaders before graduation.

“Startup Ogden gives you a focused real-world application that you come be a part of and just add to that student experience,” Cooper said.

Alex Lawrence, vice provost for Innovation & Economic Development at WSU, said Startup Ogden is significantly more than just mobile app development.

“App creation is one program we are going to run during the winter months,” he said, and noted that app development may not be the major thing that will happen at Startup Ogden.

Lawrence, a known serial entrepreneur and mastermind behind Startup Ogden, recommended students become members of the Weber Entrepreneurs Association to gain access to events held at the Weber State Downtown location. He also said students can get memberships to Startup Ogden for $50 a month and gain 24/7 access to the workspaces and events inside the upper levels of the Weber State Downtown building.

“That price was somewhat designed with students in mind,” he said, adding that memberships to similar start-up communities can range up to $800 a month.

Lawrence said he thinks Downtown Ogden will see nothing but positive outcomes from housing the new development center.

“The most obvious one is the physical appearance of downtown,” he said. “The building — it shines as a bright light down there, and I hope it will inspire other building owners and business owners and private investors to do more of the same.”

According to Lawrence, studies indicate that companies that hire the most are actually smaller companies that are growing the fastest.

“If we can create more of those downtown, that should create more career opportunities for folks that live and work in the immediate areas as they start to expand and grow.”

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