North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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OPENCOMPUTE.ORG Case studies A battery cabinet provides backup power. Abundant, reliable energy is essential to manufacturers and data centers. A glitch means lost productivity for one and, for the other, data that is compromised. In addition to the cheap, reliable and abundant electricity, technology companies like the stability of the state's climate and geography. by other high-tech stars. But the new ventures wouldn't be in North Carolina if not for the factories that predated them. Much like the textile and furniture industries that pushed the state from agrarianism into the industrial age, data centers have voracious appetites. "They have a tremendous around-the-clock need for electricity," says Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy North Carolina. He oversees operations for about 1.8 million Charlotte- based Duke Energy Corp. customers in the Piedmont and western counties. "Both need abundant energy and extremely high reliability. In the textile and furniture industries, if you have a glitch, you lose productivity. With data centers, if you have a glitch, data is going to be compromised." The power infrastructure that was built, refi ned, updated and expanded in the state over the last century for now-shrinking industries is still available if underutilized. Kilowatts don't care whether they power sanders or servers, carders or computers, which is a major selling point when companies such as Apple come looking. But industrial recruiters and technology analysts say more than electricity has attracted data centers, where unfathomable volumes of information are stored, processed and disseminated in microseconds. Climate and a benign geography also play roles. "We're extremely well-placed 18 North Carolina Economic Development Guide concerning natural disasters," says Dan Lynch, president of the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance and a key player in bringing a $1 billion American Express Co. data center there. "This part of North Carolina doesn't have hurricanes, many tornadoes, forest fi res, mudslides or earthquakes. That's important to data centers." So are state and local incentives, along with North Carolina's reputation for business friendliness. Site Selection magazine, closely watched by relocation consultants, has ranked the state's business climate the best in the nation in nine of the last 10 years. "The data-center business is not one that's going to diminish any time soon," says Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp. He's one industry hunter who played a pivotal role in recruiting Apple. "There are great new opportunities in data work, and this gives our region another opportunity to grow." The reasons — and now, the results — are adding up in North Carolina. Apple's and New York-based Ameri- can Express' centers might be the stan- dard-bearers, but there are many like them helping to transform a region once dominated by fabric and furniture. Millar now calls his part of that region, the counties west of Charlotte, North Carolina's data-center corridor. Less than an hour north of Maiden sits another example. In Lenoir in 2007, Google Inc. became the fi rst of the West Coast giants to build a data center in western North Carolina, and its 100,000-square-foot, $600 million server farm, built on a 215- acre site that used to be a lumberyard, is growing. By the end of 2011, the Moun- tain View, Calif.-based company will have tested and started operations at a second, similar center at the same location. Skirt the South Mountains, smaller cousins of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west, and drive 50 miles south to Forest City, where more than 400 construction workers recently were swarming over a

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