Can a datacenter really drive economic recovery?

A state-of-the-art, award-winning datacenter has little impact on the community it's located in.
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

ViaWest, who opened their latest facility in North Las Vegas two weeks ago, has certainly created a datacenter that stands out in a colo market filled with competitors searching for a competitive edge.  Their new Lone Mountain Data Center is an Uptime Institute Tier 4 certified design, a level that has not previously been achieved by a colo facility and something that is certain to be a differentiator in the industry.

With 74,000 sq ft of raised floor space, LEED, Energy Star, and Green Globe certifications, ViaWest has pulled out all the design stops in building their flagship facility. From the perspective of the datacenter industry, the new datacenter facility is a excellent example of datacenter state-of-the-art and an impressive accomplishment. 

But is that a reason for the City of North Las Vegas to see it as a turning point for a community that has been mired in the economic doldrums for a very long time?

North Las Vegas has seen a few other businesses over that last few years that opened to major fanfare and flared out and died quickly, leaving the city in no better economic shape.  The highest profile of these businesses, the ill-fated Amonix solar panel manufacturer, brought a significant number of jobs and attention; attention that proved to be detrimental when the operation collapsed in 2011, taking the jobs and area investment with it.

The ViaWest datacenter is certainly a low-risk operation, in terms of concerns over the viability of the project. ViaWest is a well-established datacenter provider and their decision to build a flagship facility means that the datacenter isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

But the nature of the datacenter business is that it doesn’t bring long-term large scale economic prosperity to areas where one off datacenters are built. Even if other datacenter providers choose to build in the same area, as we are seeing in Oregon and in North Carolina, the overall impact on the local economy, in terms of jobs and related business, once the datacenter facilities are completed and operational, is usually pretty minimal.

North Las Vegas will be able to point to the ViaWest facility as a business that has chosen to be in their city, but to expect ongoing economic benefit seems to be an unrealistic choice. While it is true that some number of people will relocate to the area to work in the facility, there is no compelling reason for them to choose to live in the same city. The nature of the valley is such that people are more likely to put quality of life choices ahead of proximity to the office when choosing to relocate themselves and their families.

Hopefully North Las Vegas will be realistic about what the ViaWest facility means to their city. 

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