Edge data centers remain a hot category in data center site selection, which will continue into 2018 and beyond, according to a recent report MarketsandMarkets. Consumer demand for high bandwidth services and business demand for high capacity needs such as the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the primary drivers impacting demand for edge data centers. Other industries that see the benefit to edge data centers include retail, manufacturing, healthcare and financial firms, especially in underserved markets. The research firm projects that the edge data center market is expected to surge from $1.5 billion one year ago to $6.7 billion in 2022, at a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent.

Just recently, DC BLOX announced the development of a new data center facility in Birmingham, Alabama, a currently undeserved market with enormous growth potential. The Atlanta-based provider of data center, network and cloud services at the edge plans to use the 27-acre, former Trinity Steel site in downtown Birmingham to develop a technology and innovation campus that will drive the digital economy in Birmingham and across Alabama.  

“The significant investment being made by DC BLOX to open this data center in Birmingham will not only create high-paying jobs, but also bring an exciting new chapter to a neighborhood in the city with a long industrial history,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey commented about the development. “We’re committed to positioning Alabama for a technology-focused future and look forward to working with the company to accelerate that process.”

Depending on the success of DC BLOX and Birmingham to attract top-tier companies and their employees, the project has the potential to be a $785 million investment over the next decade. The Birmingham data center will join the company’s Atlanta, Huntsville, and Chattanooga sites on the same high-speed, high-capacity private optical network. Moreover, DC BLOX will deploy the same highly secure, modular design and lean construction techniques currently being used for its data center in Huntsville, Alabama. The multi-tenant facility in Birmingham will break ground in August 2018 with Phase 1 delivering 31,000 square feet of data center space that is configurable up to 5MW of customer capacity by early next year.

“The Birmingham data center campus will unquestionably be our flagship property, capable of scaling to over 200,000 square feet of secure, government-grade data center space,” commented Jeff Uphues, Chief Executive Officer of DC BLOX. “We believe this site will be a highly compelling alternative in the Southeast to Atlanta for enterprise, hyperscale cloud, Software-as-a-Service, government, network and content providers. It’s our focus to create a multi-purpose innovation campus with collaborative workspaces worthy of housing global technology companies and academia dedicated to research and collaboration.”

Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington also remarked how DC BLOX’s data center will grow business in the community in the near future. “DC BLOX will be a tremendous asset to the existing companies throughout Jefferson County and a tool to attract new companies here,” remarked Carrington. “This takes Birmingham’s thriving innovation ecosystem beyond its usual physical boundaries of the city center and extends it into an area that will only strengthen our core.”

According to an analysis prepared by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama and commissioned by the Birmingham Business Alliance, the projected economic impact of this project during the construction and operational phase is $94 million on the Birmingham metropolitan area, more than $80 million of which will be in Jefferson County. The data center campus’ impact on Alabama is estimated to be $99 million.

“The City of Birmingham was proud to work with DC BLOX to bring this significant data center project to Birmingham,” stated Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “In addition to utilizing a long-vacant property in our city and transforming the surrounding neighborhood, this will serve as the company’s flagship data center and a tool to attract further business to the area.”

DC BLOX has been searching for suitable land in Birmingham since the third quarter of 2017. “DC BLOX wanted to be in Birmingham because of its strong local economy, geographic location, fiber optic network connectivity and the University of Alabama at Birmingham,” said Mark Masi, COO of DC BLOX. “We are thankful to the City of Birmingham, Jefferson County and the State of Alabama for collaborating with DC BLOX on this project.”

DC BLOX worked closely with a number of entities to bring this ambitious project to fruition, including the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County Commission, Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority, City of Birmingham and its Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, Titusville Neighborhood Association, Birmingham Industrial Development Board, Alabama Power Co., Spire, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

“Because data centers represent the backbone of the technology infrastructure, we see strategic benefits for Alabama to host state-of-the-art centers that keep the world connected,” observed Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “DC BLOX is joining an impressive roster of technology companies selecting Alabama for their data centers, and we want to see that list grow.”

Lee Smith, East Region CEO for BBVA Compass and 2018 Chairman of the Birmingham Business Alliance, also spoke of the economic impact of the DC BLOX data center campus. “The $785 million investment over the next 10 years to build this data center technology campus represents the single largest project investment in Jefferson County in many years,” said “DC BLOX recognizes the importance of Birmingham’s innovation and technology economy, and they share our vision that having a location near downtown will optimize the company’s growth opportunities. As with any successful economic development project, a great team worked together with the company to ensure its needs are met and that the project is mutually beneficial to the company, community and state.”