A local data company could soon be joining two defense contractors at Grand Sky, an aerospace business park under construction on Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Grand Sky officials announced Dec. 7 that Grand Forks, N.D.-based EdgeData has submitted a letter of intent to establish a 16,000-square-foot data center facility at the park, according to a news release.
“For the UAS industry, as well as a number of other industries, the real value of operations lies in the data produced through imagery and other technological applications. This much-needed data center will allow our tenants and companies from other industries to safely store data and more easily convert it into consumable information,” Grand Sky Development Co. President Thomas Swoyer Jr. said in a statement. “We’re happy to welcome EdgeData to Grand Sky and are appreciative of the continued support the State of North Dakota has shown in helping to advance the incredibly exciting and promising UAS industry.”
Construction of the facility is tentatively planned to begin this coming spring, the release said, pending the completion of necessary anchor tenant commitments, design and permitting approval processes. It is anticipated the facility will be fully operational within 12 months after beginning construction.
When complete, the $10 million facility will house an initial 72 cabinets of IT equipment in 6,000-square-feet of space, with the ability to accommodate future growth.
“With continued support and commitment, this project will be a reality,” said Lonnie Bloomquist, CEO of EdgeData. “EdgeData will immediately become the North Dakota-based industry leader in big data applications, and is pleased for the opportunity to develop the world’s first UAS-focused data center on Grand Forks Air Force Base as part of Grand Sky.”
The location of the data center at Grand Sky represents a unique focus on the UAS sector, specifically big data analytics, however the facility will be capable of satisfying data storage demands from tenants of all sizes across various industries, the release said. Features of the center will include redundant power, multiple fiber optic network connections and multiple layers of security.
The data center facility and its tenants will benefit from incentives provided by the state of North Dakota through legislation that allows for tax exempt equipment purchases through 2020. EdgeData executives and Grand Sky officials said the tax incentive was critical in EdgeData’s decision to establish a data center in the state.
State Rep. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks, was one of several legislators to sponsor the bill which provides incentives for data centers and said in the release that the legislation was designed to diversify the state’s economy through information technology advancements and to enhance the infrastructure necessary to support the state’s small businesses.
“These data centers will bring high-tech jobs with matching salaries and support the growth of other small boutique businesses by providing the necessary IT support to grow these businesses,” Owens said in a statement. “Continuing to diversify the state’s economy is the only true way to grow jobs, expand paychecks and stimulate the state coffers without tax increases.”
North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson applauded EdgeData and Grand Sky for supporting the state’s focus on maintaining a leadership role within the UAS industry.
“EdgeData’s investment in North Dakota is an important step in our ongoing efforts to grow North Dakota’s UAS industry and to become a national hub for UAS manufacturing, research and development,” he said in a statement. “They will be a great team member at Grand Sky.”
The announcement of EdgeData’s letter of intent comes at the end of another year of growth for Grand Sky, including the start of large-UAS flights at the park and continued infrastructure development, the release said. Tenant agreements are anticipated throughout 2017 as the park, along with continued support from the state, continues to grow its reputation as being the premier commercial UAS development in the U.S.
“The phenomenal growth of Grand Sky in 2016 underscores the importance of our early investment in infrastructure,” Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said in a statement. “The legislature must continue to assist this new and expanding industry to soar and further diversify our economy.”