The small town of Quincy, Washington is being transformed by the arrival of a major data center from Microsoft, which just opened the 470,000 square foot first phase of a project that will eventually grow to 1.4 million square feet. Quincy is one of several central Washingon towns that have been chosen for huge data centers due to the availability of open land and cheap hydro power from dams on the Columbia River. Yahoo, Sabey Corp., Intuit and Ask.com also have construction projects in the area. But in assessing the economic impact of the data center boom, much of the attention has focused on Quincy, an agricultural town of 5,300 that is home to the largest of the new projects. A story in The Wenatchee World summarizes the recent developments:
As Quincy celebrates its centennial this weekend, local real estate agents say, prices on prime farmland within or near city limits have skyrocketed 10-fold since Microsoft bought its data center property early last year. In a city that normally sees three or four new homes built per year, city administrator Tim Snead estimates some 1,400 new homes could be built over the next few years. Work is expected to begin this summer on a 125-acre movie theater, hotel and business complex on what last year was a wheat field. … Port and city officials estimate that data center and new home construction has flooded Quincy with 650 to 1,000 construction workers and subcontractors. Local businesses say the in flux has increased their sales by 25 percent or more.
With data center site location decisions for the largest providers being increasingly drawn to rural areas with inexpensive power, we’re likely to see more small towns experience economic revivals. That’s why local government in North Carolina extended generous incentive plans to gain a commitment from Google for a $600 million project in Lenoir, N.C. It will be years before it will be possible to properly evaluate that deal. But the boom times in Quincy suggest that there are changes in store for Lenoir as well.