OGDEN — In early 2020, EnableUtah plans to move into new digs in a redevelopment area near Ogden’s old stockyards, a relocation that will place the nonprofit much closer to the heart of this northern Utah city.
For more than five decades, EnableUtah has worked to enhance and empower the lives of adults with disabilities through employment and other enrichment programs. Formerly known as Weber Vocational Workshop, then Enable Industries, the organization has operated from a building in the Ogden Industrial Park for the past 25-plus years.
“Our current facility is a little dark and old. We’re excited to give people a better workspace,” EnableUtah’s marketing and development manager Zeb Williams said Monday. If all goes as planned, staff and participants will move into the new 65,000-square-foot facility at 535 Stockman Way in January — and hopefully usher in a new era of stronger community connection.
“In 1968 when we started, adults with disabilities didn’t have any other options than to be institutionalized or to sit at home and become a burden for their caregivers,” Williams said. “The idea of getting people out to a place to work was really novel and groundbreaking, and it’s been a good model for a long time.”
But now it’s time to go further.
“There’s a push to give people even more opportunities, more experience and more inclusion in the workplace and in the community,” Williams said. “So our goal is to get them hired by businesses as part of the regular workforce … We don’t want people with disabilities segregated in any way.”
The organization currently serves 210 enrollees, a number that can expand to 275 after the upcoming relocation.
Kenny Nielson, a current participant, has enjoyed working at EnableUtah for several years.
“He was literally a rocket scientist at ATK,” until a devastating accident caused a traumatic brain injury that changed his life dramatically, Williams said of Nielson. But thanks to EnableUtah, Nielson continues to have an outlet to share his talents.
“I’ve always liked going to work so I can provide for my family,” Nielson said in an emailed statement. “I like that I can still do that every day with EnableUtah.”
The new two-story structure is expected to cost about $9 million, which includes the price of the land. So far, EnableUtah has raised nearly $7 million through various funding sources, sale of existing facilities, cash inflow from operations plus a new market tax credit loan.
In addition to a large production room, the new facility will also house training and programming areas, a lunchroom, courtyard, first aid/medical space, a resource library, and conference and board rooms.
Participants can have either intellectual or physical disabilities, Williams said, that run the gamut from Down syndrome, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairments, schizophrenia and more.
“We provide a job coach who goes to work with them and makes sure their environment is safe so they can thrive,” Williams said of the support system EnableUtah helps nurture.
According to EnableUtah, Weber County has about 29,000 residents with disabilities.
To learn more about the nonprofit’s mission and capital campaign, go to enableutah.org. Donations can be mailed to “Attn New Building,” 2640 Industrial Drive, Ogden, UT 84401.