CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The SoUtah Economic Alliance proudly presents the 28th annual What’s Up Down South economic summit on Thursday, Jan. 11. This premier event will gather Washington County’s business and community leaders at the Dixie Convention Center for networking, learning and strategic planning.

Scenes from the 2023 What’s Up Down South economic summit, St. George, Utah, Feb. 1, 2023 | Photo courtesy of SoUtah Economic Alliance, St. George News

Inspired by Southern Utah’s extraordinary growth, the theme of this year’s event is “No Limits.” From distinguished keynote speakers to expert-led breakout sessions offering insight on everything from the economic value of water to the ethics of AI-generated content, What’s Up Down South is just the beginning of what’s to come in 2024 – and beyond.

“We just feel like there’s so much potential here in Southern Utah,” said Darren Prince, director of economic development for Washington County and executive director of the SoUtah Economic Alliance.

Formerly St. George Area Economic Development, the SoUtah Economic Alliance is a collaborative public/private partnership led by business and community leaders to strengthen and develop the local economy. With the mission of serving as a catalyst for prosperity that is robust, sustainable and in harmony with the area’s vibrant cultural environment, the organization recently rebranded to increase Southern Utah’s visibility on the national and global stage. 

The SoUtah Economic Alliance is committed to fostering a thriving local economy by building workforce development, supporting business expansion and retention, and attracting value-added companies to the region. With a focus on innovation and collaboration, the alliance works in tandem to promote economic growth that benefits the entire community, paving the way toward a prosperous future for all Southern Utahns.

“We have a lot of issues that we need to tackle, like housing and bringing in new businesses,” Prince said. “How important it is for the public and private sectors to work together is at the heart of what we’re doing.”

2024 What’s Up Down South keynote speaker Natalie Ashby, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of SoUtah Economic Alliance, St. George News

Gov. Spencer J. Cox is set to start the day with a keynote address on “Keeping Utah Weird.” Mark Knold, chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, will then examine the economic bubble and what lies beyond it.

Another of this year’s keynote speakers, Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, will introduce audiences to his business, Culmination Bio. A novel data and biotechnology startup, Culmination Bio is among the many companies shaping the future of tech in Southern Utah.

St. George’s burgeoning tech sector will be further explored during the breakout sessions. A panel of industry leaders, including Tech Ridge managing partner Isaac Barlow and Vasion CMO Jennifer Janke, will discuss the importance of creating high-wage tech jobs in Southern Utah and what more needs to be done.

Emily Merkley, CEO of the Washington County Board of Realtors, will give an update on the local housing market and what the future may hold, while Marilyn Cannon with the Department of Workforce Services breaks down trends and outlooks for Southern Utah’s economy.

After lunch, speaker, author, producer and humanitarian Justin Osmond will deliver an inspiring speech that urges listeners to “challenge their limits” rather than “limit their challenges.” The summit’s final keynote speaker is Natalie Ashby, president of Intermountain Health’s Desert Region, which includes the southwest Utah market and St. George Regional Hospital. Ashby’s address explores how authentic care and empowerment shape exceptional leaders.

The summit also features breakout sessions with the Utah Women and Leadership Project, the Women’s Business Center of Utah, the Utah Inland Port Authority and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Throughout the day, the SoUtah Economic Alliance will present a series of videos highlighting Washington County’s unique cities and towns.

“We’re the largest gathering for people who want to see what’s happening in Southern Utah,” Prince said. “It’s an opportunity to network with so many individuals who share an interest in the economic development of our county. We’re excited to have everybody come out, see all of our sponsors and be a part of this great event.”

Prince expressed gratitude to everyone who bought a ticket to this year’s event and encourages the community to plan on attending the 29th annual summit, which will take place on Jan. 9, 2025. Follow What’s Up Down South on Facebook and Instagram for updates.

Learn more about this year’s What’s Up Down South economic summit and the SoUtahEconomic Alliance at

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

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