Grant Request For Data Center Stalls
WILKES-BARRE — Local developer Thom Greco has a plan to establish a data center in his North Main Street building that he says would attract more companies to locate downtown, but the high-tech proposal was stymied by city council’s lack of endorsement Thursday.
A resolution that would have authorized the city administration to submit a state grant application for $650,000 on Greco’s behalf to help fund the $1.85 million project failed to get a second motion for a vote at the last council meeting of the year before the Dec. 31 application deadline.
Applications for Local Share Account grants, which are funded by taxes on casino revenue, can only be submitted to the Commonwealth Financing Authority by local governments.
A traditional data center is basically a “server farm” — a large group of networked computer servers typically used by companies for the remote storage, processing or distribution of large amounts of data.
In his proposal, Greco points to an April 2018 report by Gartner, a research and advisory company known for its technology research, that predicts 80 percent of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers by 2025.
But Greco says his “advanced data center” with “emerging digital infrastructure” would bring “significant economic opportunity to our marketplace while the national data center players continue to overlook our marketplace as not being attractive.”
“The future data centers will evolve into specific services that are more efficient with locations closer to the customer. All the benefits of today’s data centers will remain, but the ability for interconnection with various vendors collocated in the data center leverages and avails enhanced services more effectively,” Greco said. “(It’s) a more managed plan specific to the customer’s needs and closer to our market.”
In addition to storing data, the center would serve the metropolitan market with cloud computing services and public and private cloud access utilizing existing fiber connections, according to a project summary.
Other data carriers would be able to locate at this data center, “thus making the market more competitive and in turn lowering the costs of connectivity, security, backup and IT operations in our marketplace,” the proposal states.
Downtown Wilkes-Barre would be an ideal location for an advanced data center for a number of reasons, Greco says.
One is that Internet service providers could lay their fiber-optic cable through the old steam heat piping system under all the streets in a 20-block center-city grid and give companies located above that grid high-speed access to the data center.
Greco owns the old steam heat plant and its underground pipe system.
Other local advantages are cheaper energy and cost of living, he says.
“We have one of the lowest costs of electricity in the nation due to the abundance of natural gas and coal,” Greco states in the project summary, adding that office space, work force and living costs here are also among the lowest in the nation.
“We need the (digital) infrastructure to leverage these benefits. We need to invest in our future and it would bring more back-office, IT offices and job opportunities to our area with wages averaging over $60,000 per year,” he said.
Greco said in an email earlier Thursday that the data center would be operational by spring 2020 if council approved submission of the grant application and the financing authority approved the grant.
“The gambling grant leverages private investment to help bring this to fruition sooner and to give our area economic opportunity. We need this investment now,” he said.
Greco did not respond to an email Friday asking his reaction to council’s inaction on his grant request and how it would affect the project time line.
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