October 4, 2013 11:13:43 AM
C Spire officials announced Thursday the company will build a $22 million data-processing center at Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran Research Park, a move which marks the first significant Oktibbeha County investment landed by the Golden Triangle Development Link.
The company plans to break ground on the facility next month and complete construction one year later. The facility, which will be the third of its kind operated by C Spire in the state, will be one of only 52 in the U.S. with a Tier 3 or 4 rating, the highest such certification given by the Uptime Institute. It will offer colocation, cloud-based computing, disaster recovery, data storage and enterprise solutions.
C Spire will construct a 22,400-square-foot facility on the 6.5-acre site within the research park, which will feature Internet/network options up to 10 gigabytes-per-second symmetrical connections. Plans include the potential for at least two additional expansion phases, C Spire COO Kevin Hankins said.
Leading up to Thursday's announcement, Joey Deason, Oktibbeha County's Link representative, predicted the investment could create five or six high-paying, permanent jobs - about $50,000-$65,000 annually per position - and spur about 100 temporary construction jobs.
Cloud computing, referenced by Project Cumulus, the investment's pre-disclosure working title, is a catch-all term for computing that refers to storing information on remote computers rather than on a user's computer or mobile device.
"Now, more than ever before, businesses need to intelligently manage their data and critical operational processes to handle the explosive growth of mobile, Internet and corporate-based data demands through cloud-based solutions," Hankins said. "Business is not going to the cloud. Business has gone to the cloud."
"We're excited about adding a world-class data center to the arsenal of tools that we use to recruit new business and encourage existing companies to expand in Mississippi," said Brent Christensen, Mississippi Development Authority executive director, in a release. "C Spire's $20 million investment in a Tier 3 class data center enables us to continue our strong commitment to provide businesses with access to best-in-class, industry-leading colocation, cloud and managed-hosting services."
C Spire picked Starkville as its target city, Hankins said, because the area's lower natural disaster risk compared to other possible Mississippi sites, the park's multiple electricity sources and the economic development incentives procured by the Link. Previously, both the Starkville Board of Aldermen and Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors approved 10-year tax abatements -- ad valorem rates will be waived but school taxes remain due -- for the project.
"Being in one of the major college cities in the state is also a big deal. We're encouraged by the relationships that can be built here," Hankins said.
Officials Thursday lauded Deason's and the Link's efforts to land Project Cumulus. They remain hopeful the investment could spur future job creation and business within Oktibbeha County.
"Make no mistake about it, a $20 million development investment is a huge capital investment, one of, if not the largest, private capital investments we've ever had," Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "This project is going to change the landscape of the community. Cities are known for the corporate citizens that call them home. I think the most exciting part of this announcement...is we have the opportunity to welcome C Spire to Starkville. That name is going to be synonymous with the city of Starkville.
"I don't think there is a single telecommunications company anywhere in the country that does more to improve the quality of life of citizens in their state than C Spire does in Mississippi," he added. "This is a project designed to improve the quality of life of Mississippians, from the Gulf Coast to DeSoto County, and it will be identified with Starkville, Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle."
Local officials are also working to make Starkville C Spire's first recipient of its announced high speed, home fiber optic Internet program, Fiber to the Home. The project represents another major investment which will bring communities, including households, 1 gigabyte-per-second (1,000 megabytes) upload and download speeds.
C Spire is expected to announce its target city this fall and provide service by 2014. The support of local entities and resident pre-registration will be key factors in the announcement's timing. The company will pick a launch city based upon applicants' progressive, business-minded leadership; cost-saving agreements with local governments; and measured demand shown in the pre-registration process.
Hankins said he could not comment on how Project Cumulus' development will factor into Starkville's race to become C Spire's first gigabit city, but he did say community leaders are campaigning hard for the accolade.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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