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St. John Properties to build business parks in Springville, Taylorsville

An East Coast real estate developer announced on Thursday that it would begin construction this summer on two business parks in Utah, including one in Utah County.

St. John Properties, which has a regional office in Pleasant Grove and is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, will develop a total of 525,000 square feet of office space between two business parks in Springville and Taylorsville.

The Spring Pointe Exchange project in Springville will be built on a 17-acre stretch of land located just west of Interstate 15 and will consist of six buildings with enough space for 750 employees total, according to a news release.

“Tenant sizes from 1,800 square feet up to 42,600 square feet of space offer businesses straightforward, economical and high-utility space in a covenant-protect, well-maintained atmosphere,” a description of the Spring Pointe Exchange project said. The buildings will feature 30-foot wide spaces and 18-foot high ceilings to offer “maximum flexibility.”

The Beltway West project in Taylorsville, which will be located 9 miles south of the Salt Lake City International Airport, will consist of four single-story office buildings and one six-story building.

The two projects are expected to total $120 million in new capital, according to Daniel Thomas, regional partner for St. John Properties Utah.

During a press conference on Thursday, Thomas said the two projects, combined with the Valley Grove project in Pleasant Grove that began in 2017, bring St. John Properties’ total investment in Utah-based projects to approximately $500 million.

Thomas said he wanted to “express some sensitivity” for the challenges businesses are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide leadership during a time of economic uncertainty.

“It’s not easy out there right now for a lot of them,” Thomas said about St. John Properties clients. “And we’re here to talk about investment and spending and growth, and I just don’t want to diminish the challenges that our own clients are going through. And so what we’re hoping is that by talking about this investment that we’re providing some hope and some leadership looking through the current economic and health challenges.”

Gov. Gary Herbert spoke at the press conference about Utah’s reputation for being one of the most business-friendly states in the country, adding that the state has “tried to live up to that reputation” by supporting free market principles and encouraging business development.

“We are first and foremost free market capitalists in Utah, and we unfortunately see some of that being forgotten around the country,” the governor said. “But not here in Utah.”

Herbert stressed the importance of Utahns having confidence in how the state will emerge from the pandemic, whether that’s confidence that the restaurant they eat at is maintaining health and safety standards or “confidence in the private sector” to come up with innovative solutions to sustain the economy.

“This is an unprecedented and kind of an uncertain time,” he said. “If people that have capital don’t have confidence in where they’re going to invest, most things don’t happen.”

According to Thomas, the business parks for both the Springville and Taylorsville projects will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, which is a rating system used by the United States Green Building Council to determine how environmentally friendly buildings are.

The Pleasant Grove-Lindon Chamber of Commerce named St. John Properties the “Business of the Year” in 2018 for the Valley Grove development project.

Thomas said the Valley Grove project has grown to a total of 85 acres since it was first built in 2017 and that the real estate developer would continue expanding the project.

More information about the business park development project in Springville can be found at http://sjpi.com/springpointe.

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Salem Hills, Spanish Fork, Timpview High grads prove they are adaptable

Salem Hills senior class president Zachary Hunter joked at the beginning of his speech at graduation Thursday that if someone had told him he would have been speaking from the roof of the school it would’ve sounded like a weird dream.

Spanish Fork senior Ellie Ash said Thursday that up until three weeks ago, she would never have dreamed of riding her horse Mack to graduation.

Timpview senior class president Jackson Bertasso was part of the committee tasked to sift through all the graduation ideas and create something memorable for the Class of 2020.

Then there these seniors were, adapting and doing the unanticipated as they celebrated their respective graduations.

“This graduation is anything but typical, but it shouts to the world that you cannot be stopped,” Salem Hills principal Bart Peery told the graduates from the roof of the school during the vehicle graduation ceremony.

Since normal graduations were impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, each school came up with its own ways to adapt.

At Salem Hills, graduates came with their families and parked their cars in the student parking lot as if they were going to a drive-in movie. Speakers shared short messages from Peery, Hunter and valedictorians Bryn Riley and Sam Davenport.

“In a time of uncertainty, we need to control how we react,” Hunter told his class. “I invite all of you to look for others in need. Look for the ones on the sidelines and bring them in.”

Riley said that her class is facing a number of unknowns right now and will have to take them on just like they did high school.

“I wish I had a road map right now, but I don’t — and that’s the beauty of life,” Riley said. “We aren’t here right now because of one big leap. We are here because of a bunch of small steps.”

Davenport said that times of crisis can bring people together.

“Take time to consider who needs your help,” Davenport said. “In difficult times, we can offer comfort to others and in doing so lift ourselves.”

Spanish Fork chose to do a procession where graduates rode to the event with their families, then exited the vehicles to walk past cheering teachers around the school until they reached the podium near the main entrance. There they received their diplomas and got the traditional graduation photo with the decorated rock.

It was a festive experience as horns blared, confetti flew and families cheered.

It also allowed students like Ash to be creative. Her horse Mack might not have enjoyed all the noise but she said it was “pretty exciting” to be able to ride him during the graduation procession.

Other Don students brought dogs, rode bicycles, or wore personal hats (baseball caps or cowboy hats, for example) with the tassel attached instead of the traditional mortarboards.

The speeches for Spanish Fork graduates were delivered virtually later in the day.

“Graduating from high school can be a scary time,” senior class president Andrew Radford told the Don seniors in the prerecorded video. “We may not know what we are going to do after high school — but that’s OK.”

Spanish Fork senior valedictorian Max Colton told his peers that they have invested a lot of time to get to this point in their lives.

“Any time you accomplish a goal, do something hard or cross a finish line, we’ve done something great,” Colton said in the video.

At Timpview in the evening, seniors also had their families drive next to them as they walked past teachers and up onto the stage to receive their diplomas while “Pomp and Circumstance” blared in the background.

For Bertasso, it was rewarding to see everything come together.

“It was so much better than I could’ve ever imagined,” Bertasso said. “I got choked up so many times. It’s just so cool.”

He said the challenge of deciding what to do was a daunting experience.

“It was crazy at first and really stressful,” Bertasso said. “There were a lot of ideas. I tried to keep positive about things, although I know a lot of people were getting down. We just tried to make graduation as good as we could.”

Timpview principal Fidel Montero said he was pleased with the balance between giving the students a great graduation experience and keeping people as safe as possible.

“Tonight is the crescendo for these students,” Montero said. “What I hope they take away is that although this class lost a lot in terms of experiences, I hope they gained something as well. When things got tough, they were able to grow and be strong. I hope this celebration embodies that spirit.”

Bertasso said his message to the Thunderbird Class of 2020 is that it is stronger now.

“We’ve made it,” Bertasso said. “Even when there are struggles, we can keep going and do hard things.”

Utah County coalition brings awareness to mental health with virtual races

To celebrate and bring awareness to Mental Health Awareness Month, Utah County businesses have established a coalition to organize virtual races from May 29-31.

Taft, a Provo-based men’s shoe company, joined the Room Here coalition earlier this year.

Room Here is a nonprofit coalition of business leaders from across the state of Utah that aims to raise awareness about the importance of mental health, normalize the conversation around mental health and provide Utahns with better access to mental health resources.

Taft co-founder Mallory Stevens said she was on the ground level with the coalition’s founders as they wondered how they could make an impact in Utah and help create an environment to improve the mental health of residents.

Mental health is a topic that hits home for Stevens as her husband and co-founder of Taft has been diagnosed with depression. She worked hand-in-hand with him to find a way of life that worked to improve his mental health.

In doing so, she learned not only about the importance of mental health but also just how critical it is for people experiencing mental illness to have accessible and affordable resources.

“Because of Kory’s experiences, how much difficulty he’s faced, and how hard we’ve had to work to find something that helps him, we really want to do whatever we can for others,” Stevens said. “I had learned so much through my own life experience about what people need when they’re in that mindset.”

Seeing her husband face the day-to-day challenges he was able to overcome was not her first experience with mental illness, however. When Stevens was in middle school, her older sister attempted suicide, she said.

From a young age, Stevens said, she understood the weight people with mental illnesses carry and how it could affect those who might have been afraid to reach out for help.

Now, Stevens and her husband have joined the Room Here coalition to raise money and awareness for a topic that is so close to her and her family.

Room Here is celebrating its launch with its first event: a virtual race. Residents can register online to run one mile, a 5K or a 10K distance, and registration ranges from $7 to $12 per person.

“A 5K feels like something you shouldn’t be able to do virtually,” Stevens said. “But we have printable race bibs online and racers can track and submit their results online.”

When racers submit their results, they are posted on a leaderboard that allows them to see where they placed. The virtual race will take place from May 29-31, with final results due by the last day.

Stevens said she is excited to see how many people will participate in the race, as each person who registers will be representing the importance of Mental Health Awareness Month and standing in solidarity with friends and family diagnosed with mental illness.

“Especially with the COVID-19 situation, you can feel so isolated and disconnected,” Stevens said. “I love the idea of everybody getting out and running in unison, even if it is together, but separately.”

Proceeds raised by racer registration fees will also be allocated to Room Here, which will use the funds to back mental health resources and raising awareness for the growing demand for mental health intervention.

Utah is ranked No. 48 in the nation for high prevalence of mental illness while simultaneously having low access to care, according to Mental Health America (lower rankings indicate lower prevalence of mental illness and higher rates of access to care).

According to the United Health Foundation, in 2019, for every 100,000 residents there were 23 people who died by suicide, which is 8.5 more people per 100,000 residents than the national average. Additionally, the state is ranked fifth for the highest number of suicides.

Room Here is also planning to host more virtual events to get people out of the house or connect people across the state while maintaining social distancing standards, Stevens said.

The organization is organizing trainings for people who want to be more educated about the signs of mental illness or how to point people with mental illness to the appropriate resources.

Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis are urged to reach out to the free Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. More resources can be found online at http://dsamh.utah.gov.

Status update: Facebook donates $50,000 to Utah County COVID-19 fund

With many Utah County residents facing unemployment, reduced working hours and the stress of current events, United Way of Utah County is working with corporate partners to help ease some of these concerns.

On Thursday, one of those partners stepped forward with a generous gift. Facebook, through a grant program, donated $50,000 to the United Way of Utah County COVID Community Response Fund.

The tech company has been part of the Eagle Mountain community since breaking ground on its 1 million square-foot data center in 2018.

“Eagle Mountain is our home, and we are invested in the long-term vitality of the community,” said William Marks, community development regional manager at Facebook, when presenting the grant. “We are happy to partner with the United Way of Utah County and help provide resources to those who need it most right now.”

The donation will be used to support financial self-sufficiency, education and mental health of northern Utah County residents, according to Janie Brigman, marketing coordinator for United Way. All three of these areas have been impacted by the economic downturn and social distancing caused by COVID-19.

Using data from United Way’s Utah 211, community surveys, and partnerships with other nonprofits, the funds will support United Way programs and partner agencies that serve the short- and long-term needs of individuals and families in the community, Brigman added.

“We are excited to welcome the new Facebook Eagle Mountain Data Center into our community and are grateful for their support right here in Utah County,” said Bill Hulterstrom, president and CEO of United Way of Utah County. “Facebook’s generous donation will help many families and individuals in our community get back on their feet during this difficult time.”

When announced on May 30, 2018, the new center would be Facebook’s 10th data center in the nation and 13th overall. It is to be completed later this year.

The data center is expected to employ about 40 people when complete. However, Facebook has hired hundreds of construction workers during the building phase. Facebook plans to completely use renewable energy to power the facility.

United Way of Utah County is happy to add Facebook to the list of corporate sponsors that help support nonprofit partner agencies in the valley.

To learn more about United Way’s COVID Community Response Fund, visit http://unitedwayuc.org/COVID-19. If you are looking for assistance, please call Utah 211 or visit http://211utah.org.