State incentives spur Microsoft decision, opens window for data center industry in Wyoming

April 23, 2012

By Bob Jensen, Chief Executive Officer of the Wyoming Business Council


The Microsoft Corporation’s announcement to construct a $112 million data center in Cheyenne marks a notable milestone in Wyoming’s economic diversification efforts, and it’s a clear sign that our state’s emerging presence on the digital industry landscape is gaining ground.


Behind the lead of Governor Matt Mead who first stated his goal to recruit data centers during his campaign, Wyoming has aggressively pursued technology as a target industry that someday may be mentioned in the same breath as agriculture, energy and tourism when talking about our state’s signature industries.


This is only possible because of the close working partnerships developed during the past six years with the Wyoming State Legislature, the governor and local economic development organizations throughout the state, as well as our relationship building efforts with technology companies and site selectors.


The Wyoming Business Council has collaborated with local economic development leaders to showcase our state’s enviable assets such as a cool climate, robust fiber, low-cost and redundant electricity and access to available shovel-ready sites that lower the total cost of operation for digital business. In addition, this local and state economic development team has worked together with the governor and the legislature to create unique incentives that set us apart in this highly competitive market.


In the case of the Microsoft decision, the result of this group effort produced an incentive package comprising up to $5 million from Governor Mead’s Data Center Recruitment funds, used at the sole discretion of the governor to entice data centers, and $5 million from a Wyoming Business Council Business Ready Communities (BRC) Managed Data Center Cost Reduction grant through applicant Laramie County.


Through Cheyenne’s local economic development agency Cheyenne LEADS, Laramie County will use the $5 million from the governor’s fund to build infrastructure to include roads, water lines, sewer work and fiber installation to lower the upfront costs for Microsoft’s selected location; Laramie County will use the $5 million BRC grant to assist with utility and connectivity costs.


In addition to the above state incentives, Wyoming offers a data center sales tax exemption. Combined with our other benefits such as no corporate or personal state income tax, and workforce development training funds, Wyoming has a compelling cost reduction incentive package that is appealing to this industry by careful design.


Without these incentives and our infrastructure investments, the Microsoft project – and future projects of this caliber – would not be possible, and we must give credit to the legislature and the governor’s office for having the foresight to work with the Business Council and the local economic development community on ensuring we’re ready to compete in the digital industries.


Although Cheyenne was the final location decision, Microsoft identified Evanston, Laramie and Rawlins as very real possibilities until just months before the final decision was made. Economic development officials and local leadership in those communities worked through the same process with Microsoft as did Cheyenne LEADS, and Microsoft officials made note of the pride displayed from each community during the 10-month site selection process. The professionalism, understanding and sincerity by all communities involved made the entire state look very good to the company and made it easier for Microsoft to select Wyoming over competing states.


From a local economic development standpoint, this announcement illustrates how important it is to have shovel-ready property available for economic development. This advantage makes Wyoming a smart place for Microsoft to do business, and we believe it’s what will make others in the high-tech industry consider us in the future.


We thank Microsoft for its decision to locate this important facility in Wyoming and we are confident they will see the benefits of this decision for years to come. This is a shining example of how economic development teamwork benefits our state – and the companies that locate here.


With the successful recruitment of the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center to Cheyenne in 2007 and the presence of other data centers such as EchoStar, Ptolemy Data Systems, T3Media (formerly Thought Equity Motion) and Green House Data calling Wyoming home, the recent Microsoft decision punctuates this work; but now, it’s time to go to work on the next one.


The mission of the Business Council is to facilitate the economic growth of Wyoming. The Business Council, a state government agency, concentrates its efforts on providing assistance for existing Wyoming companies and start-ups, helping communities meet their development and diversification needs, and recruiting new firms and industries targeted to complement the state’s assets. For more information, please visit www.wyomingbusiness.org.


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