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The Amazon data center dance

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Articles - September 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010

Boardman didn’t get a prison, it lost out on a Procter & Gamble plant to Utah and the $35 million Amazon data center at the Port of Morrow has been empty and half-finished for almost a year. It’s tough times for the small town. Yet now the port is preparing a site for another data center off Tower Road, six miles west of town that’s potentially an expansion of Amazon’s port site.

“We are partitioning a parcel for a potential data center project,” says Gary Neal, the port’s director. Neal, like almost everyone involved in working with data centers in Oregon, would not give any details about what company is involved. But Carla McLane, the director of planning, said this new proposed site would be a satellite of the Amazon data center at the port. The city owns the 45 acres in question and the port filed the application, which was for two parcels: one for immediate development and the other an expansion of that development.

So A plus B equals Amazon (doing business as Vadata), but don’t expect Amazon to confirm that, either. The company requested all questions be submitted via email, and then replied: “While we continually add resources to support the growing needs of our businesses, we don’t comment on specific activities in any of our data centers.”

Neal would not say when Amazon might resume construction on the data center at the port, which is to be built in six construction phases, with about 20 full-time jobs when it is complete. In an interview this past November with Tri-Cities TV station KEPR, he said the data center project was expected to be completed in late summer of this year.

Oops. Meanwhile, another Oregon data center is going great guns and being very public about it. Facebook announced in July that it would double the size of its Prineville data center now under construction. On a posting on the data center’s Facebook page, Tom Furlong, director of site operations, said: “To meet the needs of our growing business, we have decided to go ahead with the second phase of the project, which was an option we put in place when we broke ground earlier this year. The second phase should be finished by early 2012.”

Portland-based Hoffman Construction is contracted to build the Amazon data center. VP Bart Eberwein would not comment on it, but did say in general terms about the high-tech market: “Some projects that were stalled might be started up again. Things are starting to thaw but we don’t know how quickly.”


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