Gov. Heineman will be in Springfield tomorrow for a 3:30 p.m. groundbreaking for the Travelers insurance company's new data center, at 12202 S. 144th St.
It's the latest data center to hit Sarpy County, but likely won't be the last. Economic development officials are busy recruiting more data centers, and are looking for land to put them on, they told a group of us World-Herald reporters on a tour of Sarpy County this past week.
Sarpy County reporters Emily Nohr, Roseann Moring and Cody Winchester, along with Janice Podsada and I from the Money desk (all of us new to the paper within the last two years or so), had a three-hour educational bus tour with a group from the Greater Omaha Chamber and Economic Development Partnership. We toured housing developments, a call center recently vacated by TD Ameritrade and the Nebraska Crossing Outlets in addition to data center sites and an established data center, Cosentry.
With Travelers breaking ground and the Fidelity data center under construction in Papillion, just one of the top three Sarpy County sites the officials had identified for data centers is still available. They'll soon be re-evaluating their list of sites, said Mark Norman, senior director for business attraction.
Norman said the chamber and economic development partnership don't have any more data center land under an option to buy, like they did with the 140-acre Travelers property at the southwestern corner of 144th Street and Schram Road. But they would consider a deal like that again in the future. When they see cornfields on the edge of development, they don't see corn, they see data centers, light industrial sites, retail and housing.
Nebraska wasn't always prepared for data centers, said Tim O'Brien, recently of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and now with OPPD as manager of economic development. He joined us for the tour, and said the Google data center that ultimately landed in Council Bluffs was the first that “got people excited,” back in 2006, he said. After Google chose Iowa instead, O'Brien said, “We spent a lot of time understanding the industry.”
Changes to tax policy after that have helped make the state more competitive, and Nebraska landed the Yahoo data center, opening in La Vista in 2010.
“We've coached our elected officials” about data center needs, O'Brien said. He said low taxes, low power rates and available sites are the three biggest factors that attract data centers, and all three are needed to compete. Travelers considered more than 90 sites before choosing Sarpy County, he said.