On the fourth floor of downtown-based startup incubator T-Rex, construction workers are putting on the final touches of Geosaurus. The marbled flooring they’re layering mimics St. Louis’ geographic landscape stretching west of the Mississippi River.
The geospatial resource center is slated to open in January.
The $5 million facility, funded largely by grants and private corporations, will provide working space for about 100 professionals and academics who specialize in location intelligence technologies.
That includes the University of Missouri system, which will teach geospatial courses in two classrooms, and startups like Geodata IT. Military and federal agencies will also be located in the fully booked space. Contracting firm Leidos, which works closely with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, will open an office on the same floor.
Mark Tatgenhorst, a 30-year veteran of the NGA, is the program director at Geosaurus. He hopes it will lead the way in geospatial innovation.
“This is a big responsibility,” he said. “There has been an incredible amount of investment in this facility as the city has been embracing moving forward for geospatial technologies.”
Most notably, that includes the NGA’s new western headquarters, which broke ground in November less than two miles away.
While that new building will have more declassified areas for collaboration with academics and business people, the NGA is also expanding its presence within T-Rex.
Design plays a big part in setting the space up for collaboration, said T-Rex Executive Director Patty Hagen.
Glass walls will divide offices for the military, federal government and corporations, while many startups will use open-air co-working space. Reservable conference rooms, lounge areas and kitchen space is designed to spark conversation between organizations.
Hagen said programming is a big part of making those connections happen.
“So people can learn new things, connect with one another in ways that they may not have had they been in their silos outside of a collaborative space like this,” she said.
Workshops will explore topics around interacting with the federal government, getting contracts and developing smart city initiatives.
Tatgenhorst is also setting up tours for middle and high school students to teach them about geospatial careers.
“We want to develop talent, we want to solve hard geospatial problems and we want to create talent that will be able to sustain this ecosystem for years to come,” he said.
Geosaurus is now one of many geospatial-related groups in St. Louis. Hagen is also one of about 30 members of GeoFutures — a strategic planning committee that aims to plot the sector’s growth.
Tatgenhorst said the success of the geospatial industry in St. Louis will depend on whether all of these efforts can move in the same direction.
“This is a big movement, and it’s going to be something that’s going to have to be sustained over a long period of time and has some incredible economic benefit for the city,” he said.
Geosaurus will host a grand opening in the spring.
Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan
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