Emily Hemingway poses with the Wedge Innovation Center in Alton.

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ALTON - The Wedge Innovation Center is nearing its opening, and AltonWorks couldn’t be more excited to unveil this next step in their contribution to Alton.

Emily Hemingway, executive director of the Wedge Innovation Center, said the building will open in fall 2024. In the meantime, they are busy communicating with tenants and developing the space inside the Wedge, which will host innovation companies and anchor tenants like SIUE and TechSTL.

“All of the programs and partnerships are building as we speak, so it’s a really exciting time, not only at the Wedge but with what’s going on in Alton,” Hemingway said. “We are actively building the community. We’re having conversations about the anchor tenants and the companies that are wanting to participate in the coworking space. We’re launching initiatives right now around AI and data and health and all of these great initiatives that are going to be based in the Alton area.”

Hemingway explained that TechSTL, of which she is the founding executive director, has partnered with the Wedge Innovation Center to create “phenomenal synergy.” They are working together to promote more AI and data-driven programs in the Alton area.

In addition to creating a “flagship space” for local companies to utilize, Hemingway said the Wedge Innovation Center is drawing more companies and organizations to the Metro East.

“It’s also bringing in a lot of great innovators, thought leaders, powerhouse organizations, to now have a presence in the Alton community,” she added. “It’s bridging the great opportunities that are happening in Missouri and in Illinois, and really helping to leverage the broader conversations we’re having within these topics like AI and data and health equity and all these things.”

The Wedge Innovation Center has four floors and will host different anchor tenants as well as coworking spaces. They plan to have several Midwest AI Network (MAIN) labs in the Wedge as well, so companies can utilize this equipment and increase their technology usage.

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While the Wedge Innovation Center will provide space for existing companies and start-ups, Hemingway said they also want to support small and local businesses. They plan to launch a Community Development Financial Institution to support new businesses, and they hope to increase the tech education available to businesses and individuals throughout the Riverbend region.

“We’re trying to invest in the full spectrum of entrepreneurs and tech talent because at this point, tech education can transform any job and any business. So we are really investing in the transformation of the region,” she said. “It starts with education. It starts with exposing our community to the education and the resources that they may not know are available. Any business, when you introduce new technology to the business, it gives that business new potential to access new markets and increase revenue, to streamline systems.”

The Wedge Innovation Center is also interested in data, and Hemingway said they plan to serve as a “data steward” for the Greater St. Louis region. By collecting and analyzing this data, they hope to help companies improve their products and services for the community.

“That data backbone is critical for our region to be able to track the health and progress of our workforce, of our economy, of our businesses,” she explained. “Being able to have this data structure that companies can access, they’re able to source from that data to then start using AI to implement that data within their tech systems, within their new innovation. It spins off so many opportunities for businesses because they then can source the data that they need to build new products and to build new companies.”

While the Wedge Innovation Center has been under construction for several months, Hemingway said she is excited to unveil the new space to the Riverbend community in the fall. She noted that it feels “real” now, and she can’t wait to share the possibilities of the Wedge with the Alton residents.

“I think it's going to be a real demonstration, not only to the local officials and our partners in the community but to the residents themselves, as to what’s possible when we do come together,” Hemingway added. “We dream big and we make big choices and big investments and we make these things possible not just for us, but for our children and for the future of Alton.”

For more information about AltonWorks, visit their official website at AltonWorks.us.

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