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SHERIDAN — An independent consultant has given Sheridan the green light to start recruiting small data centers to move to the area.
The Wyoming Business Council provided financial backing for Joe Sharkey of TMNG Global to spend two days in town and assess the city’s amenities and infrastructure. From there, he was asked to gauge the area’s readiness for technology-based businesses.
During a presentation at the Black Tooth Brewing Company’s Timberline Room Tuesday night, Sharkey provided an overview of the region’s capabilities when it comes to being a potential host site for high-tech companies. His audience consisted of area business people and government officials with a shared interest in helping Sheridan grow roots to become a technological powerhouse.
Sheridan’s quest to coax new technology-based operations to the area stems from an initiative backed by state programs. Sharkey, who has worked with the state and technology firms including Google, Microsoft and GE, said market research reveals Wyoming, in general, is an ideal location for data centers because of several natural advantages inherent to the state.
Most major communication carriers already pass through Wyoming along the I-80 corridor and have built-in capabilities for additional fiberoptic cable to branch out where necessary, Sharkey said. This, in addition to the fact corporate and personal income taxes do not apply in the Cowboy State, makes Wyoming a strong selling point for businesses.
Sharkey also shared optimistic growth projections for tech fields, citing estimates from the Wall Street Journal that over the next five years, 75 percent of companies will re-work their information technology systems to incorporate the use of a data center. The trend in computer science, he said, is for workstation hardware to be more compact and have information backed up at a remote site.
This week’s survey is a repeat of a visit Sharkey conducted approximately a year and a half ago, when he advised Sheridan officials more work was needed in order to compete in the tech market.
Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey said after a considerable effort from business organizations, private donors and government entities to reinforce infrastructure and move toward creating shovel-ready plots in Sheridan’s business parks, Sharkey’s visit marks a new phase for the town’s economic development plans.
“We’ve been working so hard for so long to get ready that to have someone to come in and say, ‘You’re ready, go,’ is a real delight,” Kinskey said.
Major changes since Sharkey’s last survey include expansion of fiberoptic cable lines through the area and confirmation of sufficient power sources.
“The good news is we’re blessed with an abundance of electrical power and we’ve got good Internet connectivity,” Kinskey said.
While existing fiber lines are sufficient for small data centers, Sharkey said additional networking would be necessary to catch the eye of mid-sized or large technology firms, like Google or Microsoft.
Kinskey said expanding connectivity in the Sheridan area will be an effort that requires statewide collaboration.
“To from good to great on fiber, we’re going to work with Cheyenne and other Wyoming communities to extend that data superhighway along I-80 all the way from here to Billings,” Kinskey said.
“Sheridan has everything it needs to go out and recruit more Ptolemys into the community and create more high-paying jobs,” Kinskey said.
“These are not big employers. These are companies that employ 5-10 people. (Small data center are) a real good fit for Sheridan all the way around,” he added.
“With a month’s preparation, we can go ahead and get out and immediately start marketing to the most numerous types of data centers, which are those under the eight megawatt range,” Kinskey said.
Now that Sheridan has an expert’s endorsement to attempt to recruit small, technology-based businesses to the area, Kinskey said Sheridan’s community development resources will be pulling together to spread the word.
“We’re going to be having a lot more conversations with (Sharkey) and Forward Sheridan about how we gin up our marketing so people know what Sheridan has to offer to the high-tech world.”
Kinskey said he’s ready to court businesses using Sheridan’s power supply, fiberoptic cable access, and shovel-ready sites as talking points.
“We’ve got the carnation. We’ve got the tuxedo. We’re going to the dance,” Kinskey said.