The Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE)Lab is a space that provides startups and expanding businesses with the materials and support needed to succeed. Occupying Escalante Hall, the space is officially open for businesses to enter and for entrepreneurs to commit their visions to ventures.
Western’s determination to make the ICELab a reality follows a trend of educational institutions nationwide playing integral roles in the economic development in their areas. The ICELab is now a critical catalyst for economic development for Western Slope communities.
“In order to develop a local entrepreneurial ecosystem, these startups must be based in new cities and rural communities in order to build their long-term economic prospects,” President Greg Salsbury said.
The ICELab has capabilities unmatched by any facility in or around the Gunnison Valley and will include in-house features such as fully modular workspaces, gigabit Internet, Colorado Small Business Development Center (CSBDC) consulting, specialty workshops and trainings.
In addition to being an economic catalyst, the space will play a key role in integrating Western students with the outside world and vice versa. Strategic Partnerships and Program Development Director Delaney Keating sees this cross-pollination of students and entrepreneurs as a notable attraction for current and prospective Mountaineers.
“Understanding the value of varying perspectives greatly enhances the liberal arts education,” Keating said.
Escalante Terrace has had many faces and functions since its construction over 50 years ago, including being a women’s cafeteria and residence hall, a gymnasium, a haunted house and most recently a temporary home for the art department during the Quigley Hall renovation. The ICELab’s interior design by local artists and craftsmen has arguably made it the most fun renovation to the space yet.
Despite the ICELab’s attractiveness, the people who use it will determine its true value.
“This facility is going to be driven by the people in it, not the building itself,” said Gerrit McGowan, ICELab and SBDC Director. “It is not a prescriptive space. It provides the necessary tools and infrastructure for people to create the space they want.”
McGowan also stressed the importance of keeping a portion of the ICELab as a common area. The ground level has been outfitted as a bar exclusively serving local products and a hangout area available to anyone who wants a place for business meetings or to just unwind.
The opening of the ICELab is a bold commitment to furthering the entrepreneurial culture in and around the Gunnison Valley and is a new magnet for attracting the most creative minds to Western.
Story and Photos by Peter Noon