Article by Rhett Morgan for the Tulsa World
Some companies jump county or state lines to set up shop at MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor. Northern Data AG is crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
The Germany-based tech company announced Wednesday that it plans to build its North American operational headquarters at MAIP, investing at least $270 million and employing 150 people at salaries reaching $140,000.
The firm unveiled the project at news conferences in Oklahoma City and Pryor.
“We are excited to enter into strategic agreements with our partners of choice in Oklahoma, which marks the beginning of a new chapter of our growth story,” Northern Data CEO Aroosh Thillainathan said in a statement.
“The data centers are projected to be online within 24 months, and we see these innovative data centers as the cornerstone of our long-term strategy.
“Our campus design is going beyond mining, extending to cloud services and even establishing a research lab dedicated to the discovery of future data processing applications.
“In short, this new alliance promises to be mutually beneficial to both Northern Data and its strategic partners in Oklahoma for years to come.”
Operator of 10 data centers six countries, Northern Data will locate on a 116-acre campus featuring a Tier 3-ready data center infrastructure that will serve as a hub for introduction of value generating high performance computing — or HPC — data centers.
The company will buy an existing 100,000-square-foot building at MAIP before constructing a series of roughly 150,000-square-foot centers within five years, Thillainathan said.
“MidAmerica’s sole purpose since its inception in 1960 is to benefit Oklahoma and the local community by increasing employees’ wages, as well as increasing property tax values through capital investment,” MAIP CEO David Stewart said at the event in Pryor.
“Over the past 10 years, we have invested over $20 million in roads, $10 million in water and waste facilities, $15 million in education and $15 million in various spec buildings, one of which is being purchased by our new employer.
“All of these investments played a major role in Northern Data’s decision to locate at MidAmerica.”
Northern Data President Christopher Yoshida, who has known Oklahoma Department of Commerce Secretary Scott Mueller about a decade, said the deal came together in a matter of months.
“It’s a relationship,” Yoshida said. “It’s a partnership. We’ve been able to become a part of the community the last six months.
“To call this our North American campus is an incredibly powerful statement for a company of our size. It’s going to nearly double the entirety of the company.”
Northern Data eventually wants to employ 300 in Oklahoma.
“This investment is a considerable win for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and our efforts to attract another high-growth company and partner of choice to the state,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement. “We have engaged with many HPC data center companies looking at Oklahoma.
“Northern Data is different. They have demonstrated a clear ‘best in class’ approach with their proven business model. Their initial investment and plans for significant future growth, along with a strong commitment to being a great corporate partner, makes Northern Data an outstanding addition to Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma is well prepared to compete in the global economy through strategic investments in our infrastructure and assets, like Grand River Dam Authority. Northern Data’s selection of Oklahoma for its North American Operational Headquarters further solidifies our growing reputation as a pro-business state ideal for a premier global tech and innovation hub.”
The GRDA is committed to providing the company with up to 250 megawatts of power monthly, the equivalent of powering roughly 225,000 homes.
The data center at the MidAmerica Industrial Park will be built in a modular structure, with each part serving as a self-contained system that can be scaled quickly to market. The facility will be customized with up to 50 megawatts of electricity per building, allowing each to grow with emerging businesses.
Mueller said he visited Northern Data’s HPC operations in Europe and was impressed by the company’s passion and quality of work.
“They are executing on a strategic plan built around operating quality data centers that enable true cloud computing services, clearly going beyond providing just cash-rich proof of work for blockchain,” a type of shared database, he said in a statement.
“Bringing such a high-profile technology company to our state is a great boost to our economy and a tremendous opportunity for the Oklahomans they will employ. I look forward to working together closely with the Northern Data team in the years to come.”
The company will begin its start-up phase the second quarter of this year in an existing building before starting to construct other buildings upon the start of operations later in 2022.
“In the last 10 years, business is changing,” Stewart said. “Companies are taking a harder look at the Midwest. Companies like Northern Data now see the benefit of infrastructure investment. … Investments in reliable water and power are now more critical than ever.”
The 9,000-acre park already is home to search engine giant Google, which has invested more than $3 billion into Oklahoma since building its first facility in Pryor in 2011.
Electric vehicle start-up Canoo announced plans last year to build a factory in Pryor, investing close to half a billion dollars, according to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
“Our strategy is, when we talk to international companies that are looking for a U.S. presence, there is no better state to locate than the state of Oklahoma for a variety of different reasons,” Stitt said. “The location, No. 1. To get your goods and products around the country, we are the best location of anywhere in the country.”
Stitt said the state is focused on attracting high-tech jobs.
“My goal is to increase median income in Oklahoma,” Stitt said, adding that companies like Northern Data will drive incomes up.
Mueller said salaries were expected to range from $80,000 to $140,000.
He said the state did not offer any incentives to the company but that he expects it to take advantage of the state’s Quality Jobs Act, which provides cash payments to companies that create well-paying jobs and promote economic development.
Barbara Hoberock contributed to this story.