Data Centers: Good for Iowa

There has been quite a bit of coverage in the Iowa news lately about a prospective organization who is considering Iowa or Nebraska for the site of a $1.2 billion data center. Many might wonder what a data center is, why they would consider Iowa and why is it good for the state. This week, the INS Tech Talk features a guest post by Sue Cosner, Vice President of Community Initiatives, Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) and addresses these questions.

A data center is a secure location for web hosting servers. The buildings are designed to assure that the servers and the data housed in them are protected from environmental hazards and security breaches. They generally include redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression, flood protection) and security devices.

There are several compelling reasons that the Midwest and especially Iowa is an attractive location for data centers. One major factor is that Iowa is statistically one of the safest areas in the United States, protected from hurricanes, earthquakes, rolling utility blackouts and terrorist activities, all of which can threaten the integrity of data centers. Iowa also has an attractive business climate, tax incentives created specifically for this type of company, reliable electrical power with utility costs 25-40% below the national average and a high capacity telecommunications network.

Data centers, sometimes called server farms, are considered an economic development prize for several reasons. These facilities, of all sizes, are relatively clean operations. Though their employment needs are typically not large in number, the jobs offered are both high skill and high wage. Data centers are a large consumer of electricity, but the need is very stable and predictable making them almost a perfect power customer. Finally, enthusiasts may see them as a way to foster a high-tech image that can be beneficial in drawing even more cutting-edge businesses to the state.

Several data centers have already located in Iowa, including Google in Council Bluffs and Microsoft in Des Moines. As I noted earlier, state and local professionals are actively marketing to and working with prospects who are considering Iowa. Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) and INS are teaming up to represent Iowa and the family of companies we represent at Data Center World March 18-22 in Las Vegas. This is the premier conference for data center and facility management professionals and we will work very hard to foster relationships that will hopefully result in even more business for Iowa. 

Sue Cosner manages the Ripple Effect program, a partnership with Iowa Network Services and Iowa Area Development Group, which provides technical and financial assistance programs for rural telecommunication utilities in Iowa. Cosner has over 28 years of local government experience including various economic development and redevelopment positions in both large and small communities. Cosner’s career also includes nine years with the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose, CA. In Iowa, Cosner served as city administrator for the city of Panora and also worked for the Des Moines Water Works.