The era of data center groupies might finally be upon us. Members of the 90s rock band Live are investing in a project to build data centers in four Pennsylvania cities, as well as fiber line from New York to Northern Virginia.
Three of Live’s members and their company, Think Loud Development, are investing in a $200 million plan by Lancaster-based company United Fiber and Data. In the plans is a 300-mile fiber optic line from New York City to Virginia at a cost of $29 million, and secure data centers in Allentown, Lancaster, York and Reading at an approximate cost of $40 million each.
Will “Lightning Crash” twice for the band? It looks like album title “Throwing Copper” was indicative of the band’s future, after all. Except they’ll be laying fiber instead of copper lines.
“You might call data the new punk rock,” said Live guitarist Chad Taylor, speaking at a launch event at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York. ”"The company, like our band, would have to give voices to the masses.”
From New York, the fiber line bypasses the traditional interstate 95 route taken by most major networks, instead traveling west through New Jersey. The four data centers will be in Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, and York, along the fiber line route. The data centers are expected to be around 20,000 square feet each.
Eastern Pennsylvania has several success stories in the industry, most notably iNetU, which has built a cluster of data centers in the Lehigh Valley and is expanding nationally following a private equity investment. A state-backed initiative known as Wall Street West sought to establish the region as a hub for disaster recovery services for financial firms, with limited results. The primary success from the effort was a facility built by DBSi, which is now part of Xand.
With the data center project, Think Loud is giving back to its home state. United Fiber is planning a 20,000 square foot data center near the Lehigh River in hometown Allentown, reports local paper The Morning Call. The company has a property under agreement in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, which offers tax breaks on state and local levels for up to 10 years. However, the York Daily Record reports that the project stands to bring more than $2 billion in tax revenue over the next 30 years, according to Christopher Lodge, President and Chief Operating Officer of United Fiber and Data.
United Fiber, currently a 9 person company, is anticipated to employ 350 people, according to Lodge.
Think Loud is the latest example of broadening investor interest in the data center business. This trend has expanded the pool of data center investors beyond the private equity firms that have historically driven development efforts in the industry, which has always placed a premium in expertise. For United Fiber, that industry pedigree is provided by Lodge, who previously served as GM of data center solutions for Paetec.
The company has all the approvals necessary to complete the project as a competitive local exchange carrier, or in other words, an underdog telecommunications company competing against the mainstream carriers. Looks like Live is once again the underdog, like when they were in high school and going under the name “Club Fungus” and then “Body Odor Boys.”
The venture will also build an office building downtown in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone that will house United Fiber and Data’s corporate HQ, for around 100 employees. The Morning Call reports United Fiber has looked at a vacant lot in the 500 block of Hamilton Street that was once home to the Colonial Theater. Construction on both the Allentown data center and the office could begin in six to eight months, taking 12 to 18 months to complete.
More on Think Loud
In 2009, Think Loud began a process of securing countless rights of way and legal approvals. The company received approval from the state Public Utility Commission to operate as a telecommunications services competitive access provider under the name United Federal Data of Pennsylvania.
Think Loud initially teased that a mysterious tech company would soon occupy a building on East York Street in York, a former Bi-Comp building. The building was purchased for $164,000 a year ago and will soon house admin and sales for United Fiber & Data, partially owned by Think Loud. An additional 4.4 acres in the city’s Buttonwood Gateway redevelopment area was purchased in 2012, according to published reports. Think Loud also purchased a 110-year-old Reading Outlet building.
The Live band members involved in Think Loud include Chad Gracey, Chad Taylor and Patrick Dahlheimer – basically, the original band lineup minus lead singer.
Live’s album “Throwing Copper” sold a whopping 8 million copies in the US back when people still bought albums, in the mid-nineties. The followup was considered disappointing in terms of sales, with 2 million. That’s right, 2 million was disappointing.
There’s no telling if this will be a trend, but Chumbawamba, Better than Ezra, Eagle Eye Cherry, and Sixpence None the Richer most likely all have relatively empty calendars.