New innovation center opens at Grand Canyon University

Students at Grand Canyon University (GCU) are getting some hands-on experience in the business world.

GCU has opened a brand-new innovation center called "Canyon Ventures," and dozens of students have already been hired by the businesses that are taking part. The university is also offering free space to entrepreneurs, with the hopes of getting their students a job when they graduate college.

Weston Smith, who is a senior at GCU and the founder of Lux Longboards, is just one of the many businesses using what will now be a 20,000 square feet (1,858.06 m²) of co-working space for start-up companies.

"I launched Lux as a rental and repair company," said Smith. "After having 90% battery failure rates with the boards that I was renting out, being an engineer, I couldn’t get myself to develop a solution. That solution is what led me to shift Lux from rentals to manufacturing."

Everyone on Smith's team is a student at GCU.

"I currently have five students employed. Anywhere from marketing to technician who builds the boards. They’re all a mix of seniors to sophomores, and they're all a phenomenal team," said Smith. 

Canyon Ventures isn’t just for students. It’s open to all, rent-free, including parking and Wi-Fi.

There’s just one catch. 

"If we believe in the plan, we give them free space. We give them access to our students and faculty," said GCU President Brian Mueller. "They have free Wi-Fi. They have free utilities, everything, and the idea is to utilize our students as interns, and then to give them a chance to hire our students when they graduate."

The idea is to help the West Valley grow. 

"There are jobs here. Grand Canyon University has the kindest students who have an entrepreneurial spirit. They're a big focus on serving leadership. They care about doing things the right way. If you want to grow a business on the west side, this is the best place to begin that thing," said Mueller.