A Grand Forks company announced Wednesday it plans to build a $10 million data center at the Grand Sky drone business park.
Grand Sky has signed a letter of intent with EdgeData to establish a 16,000-square-foot colocation data center at the park, which is on Grand Forks Air Force Base. Construction is tentatively planned to start in the spring, "pending the completion of necessary anchor tenant commitments, design and permitting approval processes," according to a news release.
The facility is expected to be operational within a year after construction starts.
Tom Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development Co., said the data center will allow Grand Sky tenants and companies from other industries to safely store data "and more easily convert it into consumable information."
Swoyer said some unmanned aircraft will be used to deliver packages, but he thinks the biggest segment of the burgeoning industry will be in capturing information, such as collecting crop counts or monitoring construction sites.
"Unmanned aircraft, because of how long they can stay in the air and the types of cameras that they carry, can generate a lot of data," Swoyer said. "That data needs to be enhanced, it needs to be processed ... so that the end user can get meaningful information out of it and really make a decision from it."
EdgeData President Chris Shroyer said the data center itself won't take a "tremendous amount of employees" to run, but more job growth will take place in supporting applications that will be built in the data center by EdgeData or its tenants. He pointed to software developed by an EdgeData company that's used to help the UAS industry inspect wind turbines.
"There will be some processing, some applications being built," he said.
The data center facility and its tenants will benefit from incentives provided through legislation state lawmakers passed in 2015, according to the news release. That law allows for sales and use tax exemptions for computer software and IT equipment such as computer hardware, servers, routers, cooling systems and cooling towers used in a qualified data center.
Swoyer and Shroyer were unsure how much the exemption will amount to, but the news release said the incentives were "critical in EdgeData's decision to establish a data center in the state." EdgeData was founded in 2015, according to its website.
"With continued support and commitment, this project will be a reality," EdgeData CEO Lonnie Bloomquist said in a statement. "EdgeData will immediately become the North Dakota-based industry leader in big data applications, and is pleased for the opportunity to develop the world's first UAS-focused data center on Grand Forks Air Force Base as part of Grand Sky."