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Jeremy Keele helped establish Salt Lake County's first "Pay for Success" program — later expanded by the state — that made preschool education available to more low-income students through a private-public partnership.

Now County Mayor Ben McAdams' senior adviser is leaving the county to develop the concept on a broader scale as the initial executive director of a policy innovation laboratory in the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business.

The center's goal is to help investors, social entrepreneurs, investment firms, nonprofits and foundations identify enterprises that directly benefit social and environmental programs and provide funding to make them happen.

Sorenson, former chief executive of Sorenson Communications, created the investing center in 2013 with a grant of $13 million.

"The whole goal is to create a lab that is academically inclined but focused on the service provider," said Lewis Hower, executive director of the Sorenson Center. "We knew we needed to hire somebody who was 'best-in-class' to lead the charge for the Pay for Success lab. Jeremy is that guy."

McAdams thinks Keele's a good choice.

"Jeremy has been a driving force behind my key policy initiatives, including our collaborations with the private and nonprofit sectors to help at-risk members of our community through more effective programs that also save taxpayer dollars," McAdams said.

Keele was equally complimentary of his former boss — "he has an incredible ability to roll up his sleeves and tackle difficult challenges in innovative ways," Keele said — and said he was looking forward "to collaborating with the mayor and his team on upcoming initiatives."

In their first Pay for Success project, McAdams and Keele worked with United Way to get outside funding from Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzer to expand preschool classes for 600 Granite School District students. The idea was that a better start to schooling will keep more kids out of more expensive special-education classes and out of trouble, in general, reducing public-safety costs down the line.

If test results show the plan is producing positive results, the private-sector donations will be repaid by the government agency receiving the long-term savings.

Hower said Keele's job will be to bring together various academic experts, service providers, government officials, consumer advocates and others involved in important social issues and to develop a workable plan that can be presented to philanthropists and foundations interested in fostering progress.

Keele will put the facts and figures in place "so that everyone can say, 'We're comfortable with this and, if all goes as planned, we'll achieve these results,' " Hower said.

"It's the new era of bankers in a lot of ways," the investing center director added. "You have to understand the transaction and have to make the deal happen."

He's optimistic Keele has the experience to do so.

"Jeremy has the right balance," Hower said. "He's an attorney by training. He's spent time on Wall Street, so he's not afraid of numbers and all things finance. And he's been in government. Pay for Success brings all those together." Twitter: @sltribmikeg