Economic development officials in western North Carolina, seeking to capitalize on big wins on projects for Google and Apple, are expanding their horizons and outreach to data center site selection specialists.
In August we noted the packaging of the region spanning Catawba and Caldwell counties as the "Apple-Google data center corridor." This week the effort expanded to include economic development agencies in Burke, Alexander and Iredell counties.
Officials from the five counties joined together to host a Data Center Information Exchange Tuesday and Wednesday in Maiden, North Carolina near the construction site for Apple's new $1 billion data center. The event attracted about 40 site selection specialists who help clients choose where to build data centers.
The collective marketing effort hopes to capitalize on the trend towards data center clustering, in which high-profile projects highlight an area's attractiveness for data center development. In recent years this phenomenon has helped boost the fortunes of central Washington state and San Antonio, Texas, among other destinations.
Harry Whalen, director of the Economic Development Commission of Caldwell County, likened the effect to the fast food industry. "When you see a McDonald's, you'll often see a Burger King," he told the Hickory Daily Record.
North Carolina has always had data centers in the Raleigh/Durham area, which is home to Research Triangle Park and data centers for companies including IBM, NetApp, Ralph Lauren, Peak 10, Hosted Solutions and DataChambers. In late 2006 Google began scouting sites in North Carolina, and began negotiating a tax incentive package with state and local legislators. This led to Google’s January 2007 announcement that it would invest $600 million in a major data center in Lenoir, a small town previously known for its furniture industry.
Catawba County economic development director Scott Millar noted that the region's data center events are becoming more popular. "Eight (consultants) came the first year, 18 came last year and 38 came this year," Millar said. "We're getting attention."