Ogden is focus of efforts to bolster defense, aerospace industries
OGDEN — A multimillion-dollar initiative meant to bolster the defense and aerospace industry in Weber County has received a $676,090 boost from federal officials.
That’s on top of $20 million Utah lawmakers earmarked for the effort earlier this year during the 2022 legislative session — funds, boosters say, that will help create jobs and generate economic development.
Devin Wiser, who handles government relations for Weber State University, one of the partners in the plans, said a key aim of the initiative is to assist entrepreneurs interested in supporting development of the U.S. Air Force’s LGM-35A Sentinel weapon system, spearheaded by Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman is dramatically expanding its footprint just outside Hill Air Force Base in the Roy area as part of the Sentinel effort, meant to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.
The $676,090 grant “will provide training and support to entrepreneurs in the defense and aerospace industries, supporting business growth and job creation,” the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration said in a press release last week. The funds will go to Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that is to develop a facility in Ogden focused on the entrepreneurial outreach effort, called a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF.
The SCIF “will be used by defense agencies, businesses and universities to perform classified work for the national defense,” reads a flier on the effort created as part of the push to secure the $20 million in state funds. “The SCIF is critical to creating a defense tech ecosystem that will accelerate defense solutions and catalyze economic growth.”
The City of Ogden is also a partner in the effort, but city reps didn’t immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
Catalyst Campus already operates a facility in Colorado Springs similar to what is planned in Ogden, according to Wiser. He envisions it helping smaller entrepreneurs, not the defense industry giants that have plenty of resources for research. “Honestly, you should see the results in Colorado Springs. It’s phenomenal,” he said.
A brick-and-mortar location for the Catalyst Campus effort has not yet been picked, Wiser said, but it’s in the works.
In the U.S. Department of Commerce statement, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo noted the ties between the Ogden plans and Catalyst Campus’ initiative in Colorado Springs. “This project will expand upon a successful program undertaken by CCTI in Colorado to provide needed resources and support to small technology businesses in northern Utah to spur private investment and boost the regional economy,” she said.
The Department of Commerce grant and $20 million in state funds are hardly the only resources needed to fully develop the plans. The state money is meant to leverage $65 million in private investment and $30 million in local funding, according to the flier used to bolster the request for the $20 million.
Likewise, the Department of Commerce grant is to be matched with $194,567 in local funds, though the statement didn’t specify exactly where the matching money would come from.
At any rate, boosters say the stakes are big. The Department of Commerce estimates that its grant, coming from American Rescue Plan Act funds, will create 130 jobs and lead to $80 million in private investment.
The flier geared to Utah lawmakers on the SCIF plans is even more bullish.
“The project is a generational opportunity to help Utah entrepreneurs and businesses to create scalable technology companies for the national defense,” it reads. It estimates the effort will create 1,000 new jobs, bolster gross domestic product by $125 million and generate $25 million in new taxes.