Florida wants to be a major host of data center facilities

You get a nice tax break, so long as you consume a certain level of power

Florida wants to be a major host of data center facilities
Chris Allen (CC0)

Welcome to the relaunch of my blog. We are undergoing a slight change in direction here at Network World, and with it a change in direction for this blog. Instead of covering Microsoft issues, I will be focused on data center issues, a change I am looking forward to because I love all things big iron. So, on to the show.

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The state of Florida is not the first place you think of when it comes to tech. IBM had that legendary Boca Raton facility, and there are a few firms here and there, but it pales in comparison to California, Oregon, Washington and Texas.

The state is looking to change that in a unique way. Instead of luring tech firms, it’s looking to lure data centers. The state legislature has passed, and Governor Rick Scott has signed, legislation for sales tax exemptions for large data center projects. The law goes into effect July 1, 2017.

The law eliminates sales tax and use tax for data centers, infrastructure, equipment, personal property and electricity. However, to qualify for the exemption, a company must make a minimum cumulative investment of $150 million. The data center also must have a critical load of at least 15MW and a critical load of at least 1MW per each individual owner or tenant in the facility.

Given the massive scale of data centers, that should not be too high a bar. And Florida has quite a bit of cheap power from solar, hydro and wind. It’s also got a lot of empty space outside of the major cities, although a lot of it is swamp.

Florida tried to pass similar legislation in 2016 but failed, so a small team of data center specialists worked with the local government to raise awareness of the benefits such projects could bring.

This team included Crystal Stiles, economic development lead at Florida Power & Light; Todd Weller, founder of technology consultancy CyberXperts; and Lee Kestler, former DuPont Fabros executive and now a consultant at Kopeland Ventures, according to Datacenter Dynamics.

How will Florida benefit?

It remains to be seen just what kind of benefits Florida gets out of this. A few years back, when Apple announced plans to build a massive data center in rural North Carolina, the local citizens were all excited about the big facility, then they were let down when they learned it would employ only 50 people. Data centers operate on a “lights out” mode and only need humans to replace what breaks.

However, Florida is the gateway to Latin America in more ways than one. Many high-speed internet connections to central and south America go through Florda, so it could serve as a bi-directional bridge to Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American nations.

It remains to be seen what they attract. The cooling bill for a data center in Florida sounds dreadful, not to mention the need to dehumidify the place. Data center gear can take heat but not moisture. I’d rather put a data center in Arizona than Florida with its warping humidity.

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