Wyoming is getting accolades for the second consecutive year from a trade magazine for its efforts to attract data centers. Expansion Solutions, based in Pelham, Ala., is a trade publication that caters to site selectors. Those are the people responsible for deciding where businesses should locate and why.
“We try to bring to light opportunities in segments like data centers,” said Jeff Cornett, CEO at Expansion Solutions. “These things are growing industries in the U.S. and Canada, and that’s what we try to focus on.”
Last year, Wyoming was selected as one of the magazine’s “Top Five” award of excellence recipients for its efforts to attract data centers.
In mid-October, Expansion Solutions announced that the state will get the award again for 2013. That will be formally announced in its January 2014 edition.
“We’ve got a really good list this year, but Wyoming has got to be right there at the top of any list you do [on data centers],” Cornett said. “It’s a no-brainer. They’re super strong in that and they’re going to continue to mash the pedal down.”
Cornett said the “Top Five” lists look at potential developments and ones that have already taken place. He said one reason Wyoming made the new list is because of the heads it has been turning thanks to the $180 million Microsoft data center going up in the business park west of Cheyenne.
“It’s big,” Cornett said. “Microsoft, obviously with the name recognition, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Wyoming, he added, also has a number of advantages: cool climate conducive to server operations; a strong fiber optic network; and low risk of geological or weather-based disasters.
But on top of that, the Wyoming Business Council and the Legislature have been proactive in providing incentives to get data centers into the state.
“They even do a data center permit exemption,” Cornett said. “Those are huge when companies look to them.”
Business Council CEO Bob Jensen said the state has tried to tailor its incentives to the specific needs of data centers. Those include providing sales tax exemptions for the periodic replacement of old servers.
Other incentives, like data center cost-reduction grants, make it easier for facilities to expand. That is happening with Green House Data’s center in the Cheyenne Business Parkway east of town.
Wendy Fox of Green House Data said, “They have been extremely instrumental in helping to attract this type of business. “When you’re building a new facility, obviously it helps free up capital. And it really sends a strong message that Wyoming is a positive place to do business.”
Fox said demand for data storage and cloud computing services is only expected to increase, which is one of the reasons Green House is expanding now.
She added that its servers in Cheyenne are already at 95 percent capacity. The current expansion is expected to more than triple that.
As the demand keeps growing, so will the attention from site selectors when they consider where to put their next expansion, Fox said.
“I do think that Cheyenne is seen as an up-and-comer,” she added. “We see more and more large organizations putting these facilities in Wyoming.”
Among those, she cited EchoStar, Microsoft and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, west of town.
“There’s the combination of these large organizations that really helps cement Cheyenne as being what people think of as a high-tech hub,” Fox said.
Jensen said there are still some roadblocks to achieving hub status. He said those include Wyoming’s small population and the fact that, for many people in business, it’s still very much a blank spot on the map. But he added those roadblocks can be overcome.
Getting Expansion Solutions’ endorsement for two years in a row provides a definite boost to that effort, he said.
“It’s a huge deal,” Jensen said. “Our challenge is to translate that recognition into real companies who are making these decisions on an ongoing basis.”