By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
It suddenly turned overcast and chilly just a few minutes before 4 p.m. yesterday, but the weather did not dampen the spirits of a large group of local business, economic development, and government leaders who turned-out to celebrate the start of a project to bring a much-needed technology center to the Knoxville region.
SH Data Technologies held a groundbreaking ceremony for its four-phase, five-year effort to transform the former Fort Hill Building just east of downtown Knoxville into a Tier III data center. It’s the next to highest level that a data center can earn and is based on a variety of requirements including redundancy of power and reliability. It is also billed as the first such center in the state.
To give you some idea of the magnitude of the project, we talked to KUB’s Ed Medford about the electrical requirements. He said Phase I would use the equivalent of two Walmarts, while the data center would consume about the same amount of power as the UT Medical Center when all phases are completed.
The project includes gutting the Fort Hill Building for office space while adding entirely new space for the data center itself. A ribbon cutting event on Phase I is planned for July.
We first heard about the vision that Butch Smith, Founder of Smith & Hammaker, had for the data center several years ago. Yesterday, a beaming Smith, who is Chief Executive Officer of SH Data Technologies, celebrated the journey by giving thanks to a number of individuals – the city, county, KUB, and Bank of Tennessee among others.
“I wanted to do something good for the community,” Smith said.” It turned-out to be bigger than I expected.”
His kudos were returned in spades by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
“This is a gamechanger for Knoxville,” Rogero said. “This will be a huge asset for our city. It will be a regional anchor for companies with big data needs.”
Burchett noted the level of collaboration that was required to make the project a reality.
The groundbreaking also featured a unique twist that was akin to a live television news show. Mark Packer of WVLT-TV served as master of ceremonies, introducing speakers while also periodically going to former WVLT personality Sara Mitchell who conducted individual video interviews with Smith, Rogero and Burchett.