It’s easy to think of the beginning of Silicon Slopes in Utah as being tied to companies like Omniture, founded in 1996 and acquired by Adobe in 2006, or Qualtrics, which was founded in 2002 and sold to a German company just last year for $8 billion. But in reality, the seeds for Silicon Slopes were planted way back in 1979, in the basement of the Orem City Center.
That’s where Alan Ashton and Bruce Bastian began developing software for the city, and eventually founded WordPerfect, which manufactured word processing software. A book published in celebration of Orem’s centennial, written by Charlene Winters, describes the software as revolutionary and says it displaced most other systems.
In 1985, according to current Orem Mayor Richard Brunst, the city put together a redevelopment agency to fund WordPerfect, so Ashton and Bastian could purchase a 200 acre orchard which stands in clear view of Mt. Timpanogos. The land was developed into the WordPerfect campus.
Today, that campus is known as Canyon Park Tech Center, a 14-building “park” on 85 acres, meant to house businesses and startups looking for a place to grow. After Novell and WordPerfect merged in 1994, and then sold the campus to real estate investors in 2000, the park withered with disuse, with businesses occupying only half of the space or less.
Two years ago the property was bought by The Muller Company, which specializes in “acquiring and repositioning commercial properties” as a real estate investment, development and management firm, according to its website.
Jon Muller, president of The Muller Company, was in Utah on another trip when somebody told him there was a “great opportunity” in Orem. At the grand reopening of the park Friday, Muller said when he came down to Orem and saw the park and the mountains surrounding it, he was awed by the “god-given beauty” of the place and decided he wanted to invest in it.
The company plans to invest $8.6 million into the property, its first Utah acquisition. So far the majority of that investment has been spent on renovating main floor lobbies of the 14 buildings as well as making infrastructure improvements, like replacing roofs and exterior lights, according to Justin Farnsworth, the operations manager for Canyon Park. The money has also gone towards creating the “yard,” an “outdoor hang out space” complete with multipurpose courts, a hammock garden, and a barbecue area, as well as a state-of-the art-fitness facility complete with a yoga and spin studio, a gaming/lounge area and full service locker rooms.
“We’re taking a little bit of inspiration from some of these tech campuses like the likes of eBay and Google and Apple and those, and trying to create a live-work-play environment here with this campus that we have access to,” Farnsworth said. “We’re really, really trying to embrace that and tap into that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Besides on-campus amenities, Canyon Park is situated near several trails good for hiking and biking. Farnsworth said they’ve also made updates to make the campus more energy efficient and eco-friendly with things like LED lights and energy efficient roofing. Currently around half of the space is occupied and Muller Company is working with Colliers International to fill the rest of those spaces. Farnsworth estimates that at capacity, around 10,000 people would work from the campus everyday.
“We’re open for business for any, any tenants that want to come to the park,” Farnsworth said. “We’re just taking advantage of that, that movement with the tech companies and that entrepreneurial mindset to create an environment that’s conducive for the type of people that want to live and work and play in an environment where they have great amenities and great proximity to work spaces.”
One of the companies currently occupying space at Canyon Park is Unicity. Clive Winn works there as senior vice president, but at one time, he was vice president of WordPerfect, and saw many of the original buildings going up. It was always meant to be a place where people could enjoy their work and other amenities, Winn said, and he’s been pleased with the renovations that have made the park that kind of place again.
“I have been very impressed with Muller group, with their standard of excellence,” Winn said. “It’s really exciting for us.”
In addition to emphasizing the creation of a place where employees can work and play, the Muller Company has made it a point to work with the city of Orem throughout the process.
“This is a great day for the city of Orem,” Brunst said at the grand re-opening Friday. “The vision of the Muller Company and the vision of Orem are one and the same.”
Brunst later said the Muller Company is in for the long haul, not just trying to fix up the park to sell, which he appreciates.
“(Canyon Park) brings opportunities for companies to have a great place to start and to build,” Brunst said. “And we want to fill the park with businesses. You know, like we hadn’t filled before. And and I think he will do that. I think that John Muller and his company will do that.”
The support of the city has also been valuable to the Muller Company, Farnsworth said.
“This is a huge success story of just how powerful that can be in bringing community and taking something, making a place for community to bring in jobs and bring in revenue,” he said. “And so we’re really on a great track with them. It has been a really good support every step of the way. So we appreciate that very much.”
Farnsworth said the goal for the office spaces at Canyon Park is to accommodate companies from every point, from the beginning of the business to a time when the business or company is acquired by a larger company, by offering competitive lease prices to startups.
“We want to really accommodate the entire growth cycle of the company, from moving from a garage to a legitimate office, all the way to being acquired,” Farnsworth said.
Visit Canyon Park’s website https://www.canyonparkutah.com/ to learn more about what the campus has to offer, and to inquire about office space.