Opinion: data centers, economic development, and anti small business.


I’m going to take a break from the tech writing for a minute and talk a bit about data center politics, economic development, and anti small business attitudes.

Recent data center news has been full of an endless litany of massive corporate giveaways ranging from multimillions to tens of millions of dollars to attract gargantuan data center projects that generate relatively few jobs (Microsoft’s massive 700,000 sq ft Chicago data center only requires 40 employees). I’m sure Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others of that size wouldn’t miss a million or so on a large project, but they have states falling all over themselves to lard on the goodies. It seems that the prevailing attitude is that something is only good if it has a giant corporation with a famous name attached to it.

There are tens of millions of square feet of empty facilities in this country that would make excellent data center space (Biddeford, ME where I am has a million square feet of Type IV of former mill space). The buildings are immensely strong, equipped with tremendous power facilities, and a green slam dunk by reusing the embodied carbon represented in them, but nobody in positions of power seems to be able to come up with a better idea reuse for them than subsidized condos, artist’s studios, or retail space (coincidentally pricing everything way out of the range of the average small business in the process). It’s either that or allow them to sit empty until they fall victim to vandalism, arson, or deteriorate to the point of no return.

Small data center operators not only provide a useful service and jobs that really benefit their community, they also act as a force multiplier by attracting and supporting the growth of other high tech business in the same facility. Unfortunately, the trend is not only to not support small local operators but to subsidize their massive corporate competitors and place the very facilities that would benefit them far out of reach.

So, what is lacking in these facilities that should be subsidized to make them fully useful? Simply, Internet connectivity. Pull in fiber and you now have an investment that’s far more valuable to the community for far less money than the corporate presents. Give me $250,000 and I’ll produce larger and longer lasting results for the local community and the state than the $3,000,000 gift that one huge new data center got.

I’m not sure where this blind eye and disdain towards small operators came from, but it’s time to stop it, put the money where it will actually do some good, and stop chasing the big name rock star publicity.

Call or email me or visit the SwiftWater Telecom web site for green data center and cloud computing services minus the hype.

Vern

swiftwater telecom rcs cloud computing logo

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