The University of Delaware’s decision this week to reject plans for a controversial, multi-million dollar data storage center on its campus could be a boon to central Delaware, according to local officials.
Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and Jim Waddington, Kent County’s director of economic development, confirmed that they have made overtures to The Data Centers LLC, of West Chester, Pa., about the possibility of having the plant built near Dover instead.
“I can say that we’ve reached out to them,” Christiansen said. “We’ve asked some preliminary questions in regard to what their needs are, what their expectations and concerns are, and we’ve agreed to continue discussions on that issue.”
Waddington said he also has contacted TDC executives, including CEO Gene Kern, to let them know of the county’s interest.
“Since they’ve been turned down in Newark, there certainly has been interest on our part to reach out and see if this would be a viable alternative site for them,” he said.
The Data Centers LLC did not respond to requests for comment about those conversations as of press time.
The Data Centers LLC had planned to build a $1 billion, 900,000-square-foot storage center at the site of the former Chrysler assembly plant in Newark, which is now the university’s Science Technology & Advanced Research Campus.
However, a university working group unanimously recommended the school disapprove the facility and its 279-megawatt power plant, following months of vocal public opposition to the plan.
Having a stable source of electricity is one of several factors companies look for when building data centers, along with a favorable climate that would not stress the plant’s heating and cooling systems, a low risk for natural disasters and an accessible workforce.
Waddington said the prospect of bringing a data storage center to Kent County is enticing.
“Data centers are a hot commodity around the country right now,” he said. “They seem to be the way we’re going in terms of being able to store data and knowledge. This is the wave of the future.”
Many large companies, such as Google, have developed their own storage centers to protect their data, Waddington said, adding that it can be a costly proposition.
Although the Garrison Oak Technology Park, the site of a new electrical generating facility and a flooring manufacturer, would appear to be a likely location for a new data center, neither Waddington nor Christiansen would confirm that park has proposed as a potential site.
“There are two sites, but I can’t divulge which two,” Christiansen said. “Garrison probably would be conducive to such a site, but we have another that would be, also.”
The mayor, who campaigned on making job creation a top priority, said the Capital City has a lot to offer when it comes to supporting new industry.
“We’ve told these folks that Dover is open for business.”