On May 10, new Chamber member Switch celebrated its grand opening in West Michigan after renovating the old Steelcase pyramid for the past year. The grand opening marks the beginning of phase one for the largest data center east of the Mississippi River.
Switch has already spent $50 million to transform the pyramid’s 250,000 square feet, and so far it has employed more than 700 people – with almost 99 percent being Michiganders.
The grand opening was celebrated with Switch Founder and CEO Rob Roy, Governor Rick Snyder, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and West Michigan senators and representatives. Chamber staff was also in attendance for the celebration and tours of the newly remodeled center.
Switch was founded in 2000 as a global technology solutions company. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Switch has recently begun expansions throughout the United States and world to better serve their clients. Founder and CEO Rob Roy has developed more than 260 patent and patent-pending claims for data center designs that are central to their operations and service to clients.
Earlier this year, Switch was awarded a perfect score on Greenpeace’s Clicking Clean Report – celebrating their commitment to renewable energy – making the company the first multi-tenant data center provider in the world to do so.
How we got here
At the end of 2015, the Michigan Legislature passed a package of bills to support our state’s growing high-tech industry. The Chamber fought for the passage of this legislation in Lansing, as it reformed Michigan’s tax structure for data centers in Michigan to be competitive with other states.
Advancements in technology have fundamentally changed the way business is conducted. As the business climate continues to transform and rely more on technology, Michigan needed a tax model that supports innovation and keeps Michigan competitive for the digital era.
“The Chamber is thankful the legislature saw this opportunity to make our tax climate more attractive. When an opportunity of this magnitude comes along, we must seriously consider it. Other states have already taken the initiative in hopes of attracting this growing industry and companies like Switch,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We look forward to continue to work with the legislature to keep Michigan attractive for the industries of the future.”
The changes to Michigan’s tax structure exempts data centers serving collocated businesses from sales and use taxes on data center equipment. This change provided a number of Michigan businesses with tax relief, and also made Michigan attractive for Switch to invest in and move to.
Switch’s move to West Michigan put our state on the map in the tech industry, setting the stage for increased investments and the attraction and retention of high-tech talent, as other companies are looking to our community and state.
In the future, Switch plans to open up the pyramid for an innovation center that the public, non-profits and startups will be able to benefit from. Switch has a similar facility at their Reno campus.
In addition to the future changes to the pyramid, the Switch campus is expected to be under development for the next 10 years, as several data center facilities are planned for the site. Development and permitting has already begun on the first 471,248 square foot Switch GRAND RAPIDS 1 data center on the property surrounding the pyramid.
Going forward, Switch anticipates more than $5 billion will be invested from Switch and its clients, and 1,000 jobs will be created within the first 10 years of operation at the 2 million-plus square foot facility.
The Grand Rapids Chamber is excited Switch has made West Michigan its new home and for the opportunities they bring to our region. Switch’s move is creating an environment for companies and industries to grow – diversifying our markets and economy, making Michigan a competitive place for future industries.
Projects of this size often serve as an anchor in a growing industry, providing immense benefits for talent attraction and retention and community growth. As Switch continues to invest in their campus and our communities, we are eager to see the impact they will have on our high-tech talent pipeline.