Downtime is the enemy of a 24/7 business. For that reason, tech heavyweights Apple, Disney, AT&T and Time Warner Cable are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Charlotte USA region to develop data centers that afford maximum reliability. Apple's commitment of more than $1 billion has spurred the growth of several key industries within the Charlotte region and served as the primary catalyst for development of North Carolina's "Data Center Corridor," a somewhat linear grouping of data centers along the US 321/Western North Carolina area, says Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Wipro/Infocrossing are other major companies relying on the region for data center needs. Reasons include the abundant, reliable and low-cost electrical energy; stable weather patterns; accessibility; favorable tax structure; and pre-developed sites available to inspect, buy and build in rapid fashion.
Heavyweights in Kings Mountain
AT&T recently invested $200 million in a new enterprise data center in Kings Mountain in Cleveland County, N.C.
"We spent a lot of time evaluating sites across the country and used a prioritized set of criteria and filters to determine which offered the best fit," says Josh Gelinas, spokesman for AT&T. "Based on those criteria, we chose Kings Mountain. The new facility is expected to bring over 100 jobs to the area and projected to have an economic impact of $935 million over 10 years."
AT&T joins The Walt Disney Co., which has completed a $200 million data center in Kings Mountain, and Wipro subsidiary Infocrossing, whose green-featured data center in Cleveland County has achieved LEED Gold certification. Kristin Fletcher, executive vice president of economic development for the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership, says that local company RST Global Communications has completed the first portion of an underground, 100 percent fiber optic network that will provide broadband Internet, phone and TV services to residents and businesses.
"Wipro's data center is one of the first companies connected to RST's fiber optic network," Fletcher says. "Having this technological infrastructure in place, and becoming a wired community, sends a message to the world that Cleveland County is a locale for the digital economy. At present, T5 Partners has built a data center powered-shell building that we are marketing to data center prospects."
Time Warner: $101 Million Expansion in Charlotte, NC
In late 2012, Time Warner Cable opened an $82 million data center at its Charlotte campus as part of a $101 million expansion. The data center brought 225 new jobs to the region. The new center features the latest IP technology to host applications that support customer emails, manage billing records and provide all backend applications to TWC employees. The building also includes cloud technology from NaviSite, a TWC company whose platform is designed to address IT issues confronting small and medium-sized businesses and enterprise organizations.
"Charlotte was the right choice because the city met a whole array of criteria: a strong talent pool in the local workforce, reasonable costs of doing business, attractive incentives for building on our major presence in the city and local elected officials who value and welcome business investment," says Jim Ludington, TWC senior vice president of technology business operations.
Data Centers and Charlotte's Energy Industry
Another driver for tech companies is the tie-in to Charlotte's fast-growing energy and renewable energy sector. Millar cites Apple's goal of providing 100 percent of its energy use via renewable energy sources. The company just completed its first solar farm adjacent to its data center in Maiden, as well as the nation's largest privately operated fuel cell system. Apple is also grading a second, equally large solar facility in nearby Conover next to the ncDataCampus business park. The Charlotte region's rapidly developing muscle in data center development is gaining notice.
"The consequence of this validation of the region's capabilities by the biggest tech companies in the world is that every chief information officer in the country now has to inspect North Carolina when considering locations for their data centers," Millar says.