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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Niagara County Planners Approve Yahoo's Data Center Proposal
Story from the Buffalo News

Number of data center jobs remains unclear, but annual salaries might reach $65,000

By Thomas J. Prohaska

WHEATFIELD — More details about the proposed Yahoo! data center surfaced Monday, as the Niagara County Planning Board gave its blessing to the $150 million project — although how many jobs the center would create at the Lockport Industrial Park remains unclear.

Orest P. Ciolko, of the Amherst architectural and engineering firm Wendel Duchscherer, put the number at 100 to 125, but David R. Kinyon, the town’s economic development coordinator, said no one had mentioned anything higher than 75 jobs to him.

Kinyon said the jobs would pay $50,000 to $65,000 a year.

Town officials announced last week that the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet services company had submitted a site plan and a request for a property tax break.

Yahoo! officials have not confirmed the town is the only place under consideration for the data center and did not return phone calls Monday.

Last fall, the company bought land in Nebraska for new data centers and earlier this spring said it has been looking at several sites in Western New York and other states for an East Coast center.

Yahoo! hired Wendel Duchscherer to conduct the site work in Lockport, so Ciolko presented the drawings to the Planning Board. No Yahoo! official attended the meeting in the county’s Center for Economic Development.

Some of the drawings still bore the legend “Project Pilgrim,” which was the code name given to the hush-hush project before the town went public with it last week.

Amy E. Fisk, senior planner for Niagara County, reviewed the plans. “The county strongly encourages developments within industrial parks,” she told the board. “I think [the project] is excellent for Niagara County.”

Town officials still have to approve the site plan and tax breaks but are moving ahead rapidly. Approval could come as soon as early next month, and construction could start in August.

The first phase would be scheduled to open in September 2010.

From overhead, the project looks something like a xylophone, with 10 identical prefabricated metal pods laid out in a row and a central office building between pods 5 and 6.

But the pods, which Ciolko said would measure about 60 by 270 feet, would have slanted roofs. They will be connected to each other by a single central maintenance hallway.

The project also includes a 6- foot-high security fence, with a gate that Ciolko said would be opened by employees swiping key cards. The site would have no guard booth but would be equipped with surveillance cameras, he said.

The project would be built in two phases, Ciolko said. The first phase would cover about 108,000 square feet and include the office building, the five pods to its west and a 115-kilowatt power substation.

Kinyon said that’s the same power capacity as the nearby Delphi auto parts plant, although he was quick to add that Yahoo! won’t use as much electricity as Delphi.

Still, the New York Power Authority’s grant of 15 megawatts of low-cost electricity for 15 years was a major reason Yahoo! was willing to locate in Niagara County.

“We expect Phase 2 will be done by 2012 at the latest,” Kinyon told the board. “Essentially, they’ll have utilization of the data center portion of the Phase 1 project while they’re building Phase 2.”

Ciolko said 107 parking spaces would be located in front of the center and trees would be planted around the southern border of the 30-acre property on Enterprise Drive.

Ciolko said water, sewer and natural gas mains in the industrial park should be adequate for the project.