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Ridge overlooking St. George poised to become mini-mecca of tech companies

SALT LAKE CITY — While the explosive growth, and success, of the Utah tech sector has mostly drawn attention to companies headquartered along the Wasatch Front, the state's southern reaches have been quietly building their own innovation energy ball and may be poised to give their northern comrades a run for their money.

PrinterLogic is one of the innovation companies helping lead the growth of Dixie's tech ecosystem and just announced a $15 million round of funding, led by Utah venture capital firm Mercato Partners. PrinterLogic has pioneered innovations in print and document management solutions, with a software-as-service model that has helped clients eliminate costly, in-house print servers and created a cloud-based solution to the evolving world of print tasking.

A business taking print-dedicated servers out of the mix may seem like an esoteric, tech-y detail, but the cost of running and maintaining just one server can run $2,000 to $6,000 a year for a big operation. One such operation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was spending nearly $2 million annually before it became a PrinterLogic customer.

"We were kind of the first company to do this," said PrinterLogic CEO Ryan Wedig. "What our software did was, for the first time, eliminate the necessity for print servers."

Wedig said he's also glad to be growing PrinterLogic in St. George, where a burgeoning tech scene is being helped along the way by the redevelopment of the 155-acre former site of the St. George airport.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike, right, and Ryan Wedig pose for a photo on Tech Ridge in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

St. George Mayor Jon Pike, right, and Ryan Wedig pose for a photo on Tech Ridge in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

The mesa-top location on the west side of town is shaping up to become a mini-mecca of tech company facilities.

Wedig is locating a brand new headquarters for his company there, which is already home to a recently completed $45 million new campus for Dixie Applied Technology College. The city of St. George completed a development contract earlier this month and plans are in place to add additional commercial space, retail, restaurants and residences.

The city's control of the land has been on a real estate roller-coaster ride since a sales agreement with a private buyer for $40 million dissolved as the economy soured and the land reverted back to municipal ownership. Now, St. George is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and having the scenic property, which has been dubbed Tech Ridge, is helping fuel the area's growth by attracting new businesses and the high-paying tech jobs that are coming with them.

St. George Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Pam Palermo said the investment infusion that's expected to be seeded by opportunities at Tech Ridge will contribute to an economy that's been on the upswing.

Ryan Wedig, right, and Corey Ercanbrack talk at PrinterLogic in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Ryan Wedig, right, and Corey Ercanbrack talk at PrinterLogic in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

"We bounced back from the recession a lot quicker than most parts of the country, like a lot of Utah did, and while the business environment here has been doing very well, this development is going to make great contributions," Palermo said. "It doesn't mean we're still not looking to grow other areas, like manufacturing, but the potential for Tech Ridge is something we're all embracing."

Dixie's growing portfolio of tech companies is also very much on the radar of Wasatch Front-based technology and innovation advocacy group Silicon Slopes. In a statement to the Deseret News, Silicon Slopes Executive Director Clint Betts said that in spite of the moniker, his group has been viewing its mission as a statewide effort from the beginning, and he was happy to report new efforts centered on tech happenings in and around St. George.

"Silicon Slopes represents all Utah tech companies and entrepreneurs, which is why we're excited to launch a St. George chapter," Betts said. "The growth of St. George's tech community is truly remarkable. The area's ecosystem feels a lot like Utah County did five to seven years ago, which is why we're excited to bring Silicon Slopes to southern Utah."

Wedig said luring the talent he needed to grow PrinterLogic in its infancy in the early 2000s was daunting, but he quickly learned that all it really took was giving people a glimpse of the strides his company was making, and what kind of work-life balance they could expect, if they made the move from other more lavish locales.

"I was thinking about what I had to lure people from companies like Alcatel or Raytheon and just thought, 'They're never going to leave those jobs,'" Wedig said. "But when they saw what kind of wins we were getting … and they could be a part of a fast-paced, quickly growing tech company and be able to go mountain biking or rock climbing at lunch … it started to click."

Julio Garfias, left, Mitchell Schwartz and Sal Gamez hold a discussion at PrinterLogic in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Julio Garfias, left, Mitchell Schwartz and Sal Gamez hold a discussion at PrinterLogic in St. George on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

And since its founding in 2001, a lot has been clicking for PrinterLogic. When it move into new digs on Tech Ridge, the company will bring almost 200 employees, annual revenues in excess of $10 million and a slate of 1,500 clients, and growing. It made the list of Inc. magazine's Best Workplaces in 2017, was ranked in the top 100 fastest growing companies on Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 and is one of the fastest growing companies in Utah.

And, Wedig noted the company has been bootstrapping, or self-financing its growth up until the cash infusion from Mercato. Now, the company's sights are on expanding its market, with plans to both grow its domestic client list and make moves into Europe, while also eyeing ways build its resource base via merger and acquisition opportunities.

Wedig said he's also looking forward to spending more time in mentoring the new crop of up-and-coming tech businesses that are discovering what he saw in St. George over a decade ago.

"We're expecting a great growth trajectory," Wedig said. "We're also excited to be moving the operation to Tech Ridge where we expect we'll eventually be surrounded by companies that are hungry to innovate and change the world and ready to get out of their strip mall offices. We love being a part of that and hope to share and collaborate as much as we can along the way."