Cloud computing and data centers go hand in hand. Cloud providers couldn't offer their seemingly limitless services without these "factories," which store thousands of servers and other equipment in a controlled, secure environment.
With a combination of natural advantages and smart business tactics, Grant County - about halfway between Spokane and Seattle in central Washington - has become a go-to data center destination thanks to its reliable and affordable power supply, abundant open space, low seismic zone and cool climate. Microsoft, Dell, Intuit, Yahoo! and Sabey Corp. are among the major tech companies that have made major data center investment there, with other companies to follow.
Although Grant County offers many advantages as a data center site, its hydropower, supplied via the Columbia River's Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams, and wind energy from turbines near Kennewick are its No. 1 selling point.
"We have one of the lowest industrial electricity rates in the country," says Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Grant County Economic Development Council. "ICT companies also strive to have a green footprint, which is an added plus for us."
Grant County also operates one of the most advanced and extensive fiber-optic communications systems in the nation, with more than 1,000 miles of cable in the sparsely populated area.
"The Public Utilities District has a goal to deliver broadband throughout the county," Smith says. "For a rural county, that's pretty forward thinking."
The arrival of multiple data centers in Grant County has benefited the economy in myriad ways.
"We have an entirely new job sector," Smith says. "A few years ago a skilled IT worker would have to move out of Grant County. Now they don't have to."