At a press conference that took place on July 9, in Birmingham, Alabama, Jeff Uphues, Chief Executive Officer of DC BLOX, narrated a journey that began on a rainy August night when he and his colleagues stood before a worn and faded sign and a locked gate. ‘For Sale – Redevelopment Site – 27 acres,’ the sign read.
Only 11 months later, standing on the same property, Mr. Uphues and DC BLOX announced its plans to build a new data center campus in Birmingham on what was once the site of Trinity Steel. Intended to be DC BLOX’s flagship facility, once completed it will be capable of scaling to more than 200,000 square feet of secure, government-grade data center space. As part of a technology and innovation center that will drive the connected digital economy not only in Birmingham but across all of Alabama, the development project has the potential to become a $785 million investment over the next decade, attracting top-tier companies to the DC BLOX data center and boosting economic growth throughout the region.
What emerged as Mr. Uphues spoke from the dais to an audience of city and state government leaders, project stakeholders, business stewards, local citizens and the media is a story of shared commitment to transform a brownfield site into a nexus for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
From Forging Steel to Fostering Innovation
Once the headquarters of the Ingalls Ironworks dating back to the 1900s — at the time, the largest single-unit steel fabricator in the South, later sold to Trinity Steel in 1981, and then becoming a dormant property — the redeveloped site will now spur the forces of innovation across the city, state and region. Groundbreaking of the Birmingham multi-tenant facility will begin August 2018 with Phase 1 delivering 31,000 square feet of data center space configurable up to 5MW of customer capacity by early 2019.
Among the entities with whom DC BLOX worked closely to finalize the project are the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County Commission, Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority, City of Birmingham and its Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, Titusville Neighborhood Association, Birmingham Industrial Development Board, Alabama Power Co., Spire, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance.
But why Birmingham, when DC BOX could have determined to locate its new facility anywhere?
A Data-Driven Decision to Expand to an Edge Market
As Mr. Uphues explained in his address, DC BLOX’s plan to grow and scale its data center operations is ambitious, yet grounded in a data-driven decision. The company, which currently has data centers in Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Huntsville, Alabama, looked at many cities throughout the Southeast. For DC BLOX, Birmingham’s proximity to Atlanta, its investments in physical infrastructure and higher education, as well as recent economic development activity were particularly attractive.
Moreover, the company conducted exhaustive quantitative research of 40 cities located in the Southeast to benchmark the availability to fiber optic networks, power utility rates, the availability of office space, the number of new business permits, power absorption rates, the number of large to small businesses, and the amount of internet traffic that originates from and terminates to the region.
Through this process, it was revealed that Birmingham is the largest city in the U.S. without a purpose-built, high security multi-tenant data center. This discovery demonstrated the confluence of DC BLOX’s mission to provide data center, network and cloud services at the edge with an untapped opportunity that stands to elevate the economic and technological future of a city. While the Birmingham area is a community with enormous potential for growth, it is currently an underserved market when compared to major metros such as Atlanta.
Birmingham is a key edge growth market and DC BLOX is building its data center campus in this growing city to be nearer to consumers. The multi-tenant facility will provide high-speed network connectivity to the core and cloud infrastructure to support emerging applications that require low latency for local market end users. For enterprises, hyperscale cloud, Software-as-a-Service, network and content providers as well as government, the DC BLOX Birmingham data center campus will be a highly attractive alternative to Atlanta in the Southeast.
But as it turns out, there was another, somewhat intangible element to DC BLOX’s decision to site its new data center campus in Birmingham.
“Through this process, we came to know the heart of Birmingham,” Mr. Uphues told the audience at the press conference. “It has a grit to never give up and a thirst to win by transforming the technology infrastructure to help lead the state into the future economy.”