Potential Looms for More Data Centers in Region

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med_Pamelas_Mug_copy55With the recent announcement by Facebook that they will add a second data center to the Prineville location, it’s evident Central Oregon is prime for more data center sites.

At Economic Development for Central Oregon’s annual membership meeting two keynote speakers – both accomplished corporate site selectors – presented their perspectives on national and global industry trends.  

David Aaroe is co-founder of Fortis Construction (one of Oregon’s largest privately held companies) and one of the top site selectors for the data center industry including the Facebook center in Prineville.

Dick Sheehy is director of business location analysis for CH2MHill, one of the largest employee-owned engineering and construction firms in the U.S.  

Aaroe offered that the potential for data center projects in Central Oregon is enormous.  He sited an 18 percent annual increase in data center projects around the country. While you may have read that the U.S. government is closing 80 data centers, there are many newer ones being built to accommodate records from the closed facilities.

In 2010 there were 170 new data centers built, each at an average cost of $88 million. By 2020 Aaroe predicts there will be 454 being built in a year.

Aaroe used Central Washington as a example of a place with little apparent economic advantages as having a 100 percent increase in tech companies with Yahoo, Intuit, Dell and T-Mobile building facilities in little Quincy, Washington, a small community just outside Moses Lake, investing $2.9 billion in construction. The town received 200 full time jobs and another 250 in contract labor for maintenance and security. Dell’s plans include a 250,000 square foot data center over time.

One of the biggest benefits to Washington is access to plentiful, affordable, hydro-electric power, clean air available for circulation and cooling and relatively safe location from severe weather.

According to Aaroe and Sheehy Central Oregon has the attributes necessary to attract more data centers (several companies are already looking here). Along with the power and weather benefits, we have:

• No sales tax and a competitive incentive program through enterprise zones and other tax breaks.
• Direct flights to San Francisco.
• Already an established location with Facebook’s presence.
• An educated workforce base.
• A highly livable community of numerous recreational activities, quality schools, safety and environmentally friendly.
• Improvements to infrastructural
are underway.

Sheehy suggests that Central Oregon may have found its niche as a data center hub. “One of the challenges is not having a I-5 loop, but if people come here, they never forget it,” he offered.

Aaroe recommends a collaborative approach between public/private entities will be required to recruit and target high tech companies to Central Oregon. PHA

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