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Grant Could Bring New Data Center to Wyoming County

A data center is looking to move to Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Laramie County Board of Commissioners and Cheyenne LEADS are hoping to make it easier by applying for a $2.25 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council.

by Margaret Austin, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle / November 19, 2020
Data center. (Shutterstock) Shutterstock

(TNS) — A new managed data center is looking to make Cheyenne home, and the Laramie County Board of Commissioners and Cheyenne LEADS are hoping to make that decision easier by applying for a $2.25 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council.

If approved, that money would be used by VMaccel to lower the cost of electrical and communication utilities over a five-year period.

The commissioners approved the grant application at their Tuesday meeting. Along with the $2.25 million, VMaccel plans on spending $16.2 million on its own to develop the data center and necessary infrastructure.

According to the grant application documents, the grant is expected to be approved or rejected by the State Loan and Investment Board in March. If approved, the data center's development would be required to bring at least $1.4 million in taxable capital investment and at least $1.4 million for new employee wages to Laramie County.

"The company will use the requested funds for reducing communications and utility costs, to encourage employment and private investment," Laramie County Grants Manager  Sandra Newland  said.

On the county's end, Commission Chairman  Gunnar Malm  said, "This adds an exciting tool in our toolbox in terms of economic development and adding more to our tech sector here in Laramie County."

And as Laramie County looks to diversify its economy, bracing for the decline in property taxes from the oil and gas industry, VMaccel coming to town is a step in the right direction. Malm pointed to the impact Microsoft's arrival has had on the county's tax base as a positive example.

Pending the grant approval, the company plans to renovate the "rundown" warehouse building at 607 E. Lincolnway and expand rapidly from there. VMaccel's services can be used to reduce operational costs and increase efficiencies in areas like education, research and medicine. To accomplish that, the hyper-efficient data center offers high performance computing services, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, encryption and cybersecurity, according to the company.

Both county officials and Cheyenne LEADS agree that the development would enhance the technology environment in the county, attracting new businesses and spurring further investments in tech infrastructure. But without the grant, the application said VMaccel wouldn't be able to grow quickly and scale out operations, would face higher electricity costs and wouldn't be able to hire as much locally.

"There would also be significantly less incentive to continue building out operations in Wyoming," according to the application.

If approved, VMaccel will create 14 jobs within the first five years, which is expected to total at least $6 million in wages over that period, even though only $1.4 million is required for the grant. The wage requirement will only count for wages higher than $30.50 an hour, given the high-paying business and tech jobs that are expected to come online.

"It's not about the number of jobs, but the quality of the jobs," Cheyenne LEADS Director  Betsey Hale  said in an email. "I'd rather have 10 jobs that pay $100,000 each than 100 jobs which pay $10,000 each."

Malm added that these types of jobs in the tech industry are highly attractive for younger populations, and VMaccel's development would open the door for more youth to stay in Wyoming.

"We are an energy exporting state and an energy exporting county, but we also export a lot of our young and talented minds," Malm said. "When we provide more opportunities for youth in our community — in different industries, especially in tech — we have the ability to keep some of those young people here, working and adding to the local economy and our way of life."

(c)2020 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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