What is the Greensboro/Guilford County master plan for attracting technology and advanced manufacturing jobs?
I was wondering about that as I looked at ideas for Project Haystack, the ambitious proposal to develop land now occupied by the County prison farm in eastern Guilford. The concept includes a substantial concentration of advanced manufacturing, but at this point seems focused on giving over a bunch of valuable acreage to giant data centers.
Would locating data centers on the farm be the best use of the land at a time when large, undeveloped tracts are a dwindling asset? I’m not certain that a data farm is a bad idea, but I’d like to have a better understanding of the overall strategy and the perceived role of data centers in bringing a substantial number of quality jobs to the region.
We know Guilford County is good for data centers – we’ve got abundant water, cheap power, and sit atop major fiber-optic pipelines. That’s why we have a very large American Express facility, which doesn’t get as much press as other major North Carolina data centers (e.g. Google, Apple, and Facebook) but is a whale nonetheless.
And we know that data centers can be good things for a local or regional economy in terms of tax revenue, while bringing a relative handful of good jobs and of course a massive construction project at the front end. There’s also the promise that these facilities give host communities a place in the information economy, which is true, as far as it goes – it’s just not a very exalted place in the value chain. On their own, data centers are about extracting resources from one place to support job creation and wealth generation somewhere else.
So, back to my queries: How do data centers fit into our economic development master plan? Are they an end to themselves (and if so, is that a good deal for us), or can we leverage them into something beyond (needed) tax dollars? How do they tie into our better-articulated econ dev plans, including nanotech and an aviation cluster? And is that big piece of public land in eastern Guilford best leveraged by putting up massive buildings that are largely empty of people, or is there a plausible better possibility out there?
Anyone know the answers to these questions?