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Moving to the Heartland

By Steve Jones,

This editorial was originally published on Oct 17, 2008. It is being republished as Steve is on vacation.

This is kind of a US-based editorial, but I suspect that it applies in other countries as well. I caught this article about data center growth in Iowa, traditionally a farming state in the US. Iowa is making efforts to attract companies, including large ones like Microsoft and Google, to built data centers within its borders.

Quite a few data centers have been built lately in the middle of the US, in non-traditional IT or Telecom power areas. Not that some big cities haven't gotten data centers as well, but it seems more and more that data centers are being built in out-of-the way places. I've seen Google add data centers in Oregon and Iowa, Microsoft adding them in Boulder and Dublin, as well as Quincy, Washington. Microsoft has added some large ones in big cities like Chicago and San Antonio as well.

It's interesting that as we grow more and more, and with greater needs to be connected and in contact with each other that our technological advances have leveled the cost of entry into many industries. The publishing and music industries are struggling as every person can become their own producer, publisher, distributor, and talent. No longer does a musician need to move to Los Angeles or New York to get noticed. And no longer does a writer need to struggle along hoping to get a book contract. In both cases the Internet and various on-demand technologies enable each person to get their own content out into the real world and sell it themselves.

For those of us working in technology, it means that Silicon Valley and other technological hotbeds are not necessarily the place we need to live. More and more people are forgoing the need to build their business in a large city and instead doing it where they want to live. A company today might pick a place where the founder grew up, or where they went to school, or some other criteria.

Just as cities grew by attracting businesses to the places with large and diverse workforces, now small towns can do the same, by offering different types of amenities, tax structures, and more. And with large companies like Google and Microsoft helping to invest in some of these places, it might be that your next high-tech job is in someplace like Boulder, CO, which has seen tremendous data center growth.

Maybe I should even consider dedicating an acre or two out here at the ranch for a small data center. Anyone want to come work in Elbert County, CO?

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