Data center job requires some heavy lifting

Written by ED MERRIMAN Baker City Herald June 30, 2010 01:09 pm

It took a crew of nine and a 35-ton crane to lift an 8,200-pound generator into place to provide backup power for a third-floor data center under construction at the 10-story Baker Tower building in downtown Baker City.

Getting the generator in place Tuesday  was no easy task, said Mike Jenson, who owns Michael E. Jenson Construction of Baker City and is foreman for the data center project.

To support the generator, workers welded a frame of steel I-beams.

The low-boy truck from Redmond Trucking used to haul the generator to Baker City was too wide to fit in the alley behind Baker Tower, where electrical wires had been moved to accommodate the crane.

So the generator was lifted first off the low-boy and onto a smaller truck that fit in the alley.

Even after all that, more electrical wires crossing the alley had to be moved to clear a safe path for the crane.

The generator and a universal power supply also unloaded with the crane will be connected to a bank of 30, 100-pound batteries to create a backup power for Phase I of Synergy Data Center and Services (Synergy DCS), which is scheduled for completion by mid-July, Jenson said.

“If the power goes off, the generator will kick in and keep the batteries charged up,” Jenson said. A backup power supply keeps the computer servers, and air conditioning system that cools them, from crashing in the event of a power outage.

Richard and Kathleen Chaves of Chaves Consulting in Baker City, Shayne and Angelika Olsen, owners of Baker Tower and of SACE construction of Bend, teamed up with Arikkan Inc. of Salem to invest $1 million in the Phase I construction and installation of about 1,500 computer servers and other equipment required to establish Synergy DCS in Baker Tower.

Jenson said he has a crew of three working full time constructing the data center, plus three temporary workers who helped a three-man crew with Roadrunner Towing and Crane Service unload the equipment Tuesday.

Chaves said setting up the computer servers and related security system will create a few additional jobs in the short term.

However, the main potential for creating jobs in Baker City will come from up to 100 help desk positions he expects to be added by companies, government agencies and school districts that utilize the data center to store or back up their computer files and operating software.

The Olsens purchased the building from a family member in 1999, but Shayne Olsen credits Chaves for bringing the data center to Baker Tower.

Olsen said there’s plenty of room left to expand the data center on the third floor, and he said if more room is needed, “we still have lots of square feet left on the first and second floors” of the 10-story building.

In addition to the Phase I data center project, Olsen said he and a small crew from his SACE construction company came up from Bend to build four new condominiums on the sixth and seventh floors.

“We have three condos that are all occupied. When we finish the four new condos this fall, the building will be done,” Olsen said.

“The data center is the last portion of our build-out, and when it is completed we’ll be done,” he said.

While the first phase of the data center is expected to be completed in July, Olsen said there’s plenty of room to expand and plans are already in the works for Phase II.

“If we can do that, it is a very good thing for Baker City,” Olsen said. “It means a lot more jobs for the folks in Baker City and Baker County. The whole world is going to computers. The whole world has data, and most of the world doesn’t have a back up yet.”

He said computer giants such Facebook, which is building a data center in Prineville, and Bend Broadband, which is building a data center in Bend, represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential for siting data centers in rural areas such as Baker City.

He said Baker City has a big advantage over places along the West Coast, because the labor, real estate and power costs are considerably lower here.

In addition to those advantages, Olsen said Baker City is a good location for data centers because “We have no earthquakes here” and there’s almost no chance of a tornado or major flood event or other natural disaster affecting Baker Tower.