One of the biggest economic construction projects in West Michigan is about to begin in earnest outside the former Steelcase pyramid in Kent County.
Gaines Township planners permitted Nevada-based Switch to build a huge part of what will likely become one of the biggest data center campuses in the United States.
The township recently approved a site plan for a 382,000 square foot building to accompany Switch's operations inside the pyramid. The building will be more than 1,400 feet long and will take up most of the room on the west side of the pyramid from 60th Street to close to M-6. Public documents the 13 Watchdog team obtained gave us our first look at the facility that, believe it or not, will be larger in size than the pyramid sitting next to it.
Michigan House Rep. Ken Yonker from Gaines Township toured the pyramid recently and said the company is ahead of schedule getting clients to host their information at the data center.
"We're in the first year now and they have the basement facility data center and it's at capacity in the pyramid and they are all leased," Yonker said.
The 13 Watchdog team broke the news last year that the massive project was being proposed and needed legislative changes for it to proceed. After the news broke, Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder agreed to tax incentives last December to encourage the company to set up shop.
Over the last year, it appears Switch has made great progress.
"They've honored their commitments and they've gone above and beyond," Yonker said.
Last year, Switch promised to build the new two million square foot, $5 billion SUPERNAP data center campus potentially making it the largest data center campus in the eastern United States.
The company has already made significant progress inside the Pyramid and is now beginning to work on buildings outside on the property.
This year, the 13 Watchdog team toured the company's facility in Las Vegas to get a sense of what was going to be built in West Michigan. The company says the Nevada data centers are the largest in the world and security is very tight.
In the documents we obtained, we found out how tight security will be at the West Michigan facility.
The newly constructed data center will be surrounded by a 12-foot concrete block wall topped with a 2-foot tall iron fence.
But that's not all.
The company is going to install a second 10-foot iron security fence in front of the wall to make sure people can't get into the facility to cause trouble.
"It's very high security and you can't even get close to the door," Yonker said. "These are highly-trained military type security people."
As for jobs, Switch has hired more than 400 people so far, mostly for construction jobs. Switch has promised to hire 1,000 permanent jobs over a 10-year period and leaders with the company say they are on track to meet that number. Economic leaders in Grand Rapids suggested the 1,000 jobs could create 5,000 more "spin-off jobs."
Switch is expected to make additional announcements in the first quarter of 2017.