Vernal’s Innovation Hub

Pete CodellaArticles

The Vernal Innovation Hub will open its doors to the public in early February 2021. The Hub attracts co-workers, online rural workers, entrepreneurs, startups, and business networking and will diversify the Uintah Basin economy by inspiring and incubating local talent.

The Innovation Hub evolved from idea to completion despite a downturn in the local economy. Uintah County has the highest unemployment rate in Utah, with 11% unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic and the reduction of oil and gas industries.

The Hub started three years ago when over 20 community leaders joined together to take a significant step in diversifying an economy heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry. A committee was formed representing 12 area entities in addition to small tech businesses and entrepreneurs. The group recognized the Basin’s future economy must incrementally move to non-energy production job creation by targeting online workforce opportunities, small business creation, and technology-based businesses.

Uintah County Commissioner Bart Haslem said, “This has been a great project to be a part of. The resources we are making available to the community can help change our economy in a very positive way.”

The vision for a Co-Working and Entrepreneur Center received a significant boost in June 2019 when the Governor’s Office of Economic Development solicited grant applications for rural co-working and online innovation centers. The Uin-Tech Committee submitted a grant with renderings and received $223,000 towards construction. With additional funds from the county, city, and Strata Networks (the Basin’s high-speed fiber provider), the Hub underwent a major remodel.

The Innovation Hub is located on Main Street in a former two-story city police department building, vacated nine years ago. The renovation project was designed and constructed by Vernal City and Uintah County building facility employees to reduce cost. Grant funds were used for construction materials, railings, network, WiFi, finishings, and furnishings.

The Hub is nearing completion with 7,000 square feet of workspace and networking areas. It consists of shared office areas, two conference rooms, an event/training room, flex space, a podcast room, phone booths, and a break room. It also boasts a 1GB internet connection with impressive download and upload speeds.

Membership is tiered similar to other co-working spaces. Costs range from $199 a month for a private office to $5 a month for a daily pass. Access to the Center is 24/7 for members with the smartphone app.

The Hub’s development is a prime example of partnerships between state and local entities to accomplish a community goal.

Additional information about Vernal’s Innovation Hub is here.