It used to be that $200 million or $300 million was a lot of money for a data center, and the $500 to $600 million project cost for a Microsoft or Google campus represented the outer limits of data center investment.
But Apple's North Carolina data center ushered in the Era of the Billion Dollar Data Center, and we're starting to see more projects touting potential investments of $1 billion or more. These include the potential Verizon data center in Somerset, N.Y., which is stated to have a potential 20-year investment in excess of $4 billion.
The latest example comes from Missouri, where local officials claim a secretive data center project with the code name "Project Unicorn" could bring more than $1 billion in investment to an industrial park near Columbia, Missouri. Dave Griggs, the chairman of Columbia's Regional Economic Development Inc. said this week that the Ewing Industrial Park had a major prospective tenant.
“We are currently working with a prospect that is well beyond a billion-dollar investment,” Griggs told the Boone County Fire Protection Broad, which approved an amendment to its tax abatement program to help attract the project. Griggs said the change would help put Boone County “on a level playing field” with other states pursuing the "Project Unicorn" tenant.
Is this really a $1 billion project? Or are numbers being inflated to try and sway legislators and local officials whose support it essential in assembling tax breaks? So long as the "Unicorn" prospect is cloaked in secrecy, these huge numbers are difficult to substantiate or debunk.
It's worth noting that the Columbia site has been the focus of previous rumors about large tenants, especially during an effort this past spring to win state-level tax incentives. Earlier this year the Ewing Industrial Park project was tied to the Open Source Data Center Initiative, an initiative to develop an open source approach to data center design and engineering.