T-REX prepares for big jump into geospatial innovation

May 7, 2018
Originally published on May 8, 2018 4:56 am

A St. Louis technology incubator is devoting an entire floor of its historic downtown building to establishing a pipeline of workers and advancements in the highly-skilled field of geospatial technology.

T-REX will soon house a Geospatial Resource Center. T-REX President and Executive Director Patricia Hagen recently spoke about the plans, which have been spurred, in part, by the yet-to-be-built National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's new headquarters in north St. Louis.

"Everything we do now has some sort of location intelligence attached to it," Hagen said, with maps on cell phones being just one example. Along with training the next generation of employees in the geospatial sector, the new center will be designed to provide tools for entrepreneurs and innovators to develop future geospatial technologies.

Becoming a "real hub for geospatial and locational intelligence really for the nation," is a key goal, and in Hagen's view, the center will play a huge role in making that a reality. It would also be a success, she said, if it helps the region attract and retain talent while creating innovative resources in the sector. Essentially, Hagen views the initiative as something that will eventually serve as a talent-and-technology feeder for local and national companies with a geospatial location focus.

Leveraging the new center to attract more geospatial companies and technologies to the incubator is a possibility, but T-REX's nonprofit status means it will take more of a community-first approach. "We think that this is going to be great for downtown," Hagen said. It should also have a positive impact throughout the region's tech sector, like Cortex. "This movement we hope will be much bigger than just one organization."

The incubator's primary role is to support startup companies, mainly related to technology. A geospatial-focused area will build on activity underway in the sector, both regionally and nationally. "There's a natural attachment to the NGA, of course," Hagen said, adding that the federal agency's shift toward a more collaborative approach is creating interest from companies wanting to be part of the effort to create a geospatial hub in St. Louis.

Plans for the Geospatial Resource Center come as the incubator is in the final stages of a capital campaign to make some much-needed renovations to the historic building at 911 Washington Ave., former home to Lammert's Furniture store.  Those include getting up to speed with the needs of modern technological startups. There will be new facilities, updated office space and infrastructure.

"Really turning this building into something St. Louis can be proud of," Hagen said. T-REX recently secured $5 million in New Market Tax Credits to help fund the project, which includes the entire floor for the new center.

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