Data centers offer close to 1,000 jobs in Grant County
By Jonathan Smith, Grant County EDC
From 21 employees in 2010 to 605 employees in 2013, data centers in Central Washington are adding jobs at a rapid pace.
I’m not aware of any local industry that is adding jobs faster than data centers. Jobs have gone up over 2,700 percent in the past four years for which we have numbers.
The numbers I’m referring to come from the Washington State Department of Revenue, which is tasked with collecting job information from companies that receive tax incentives. Information collected includes the number of jobs, the salaries and whether the jobs offer health and retirement benefits.
Ninety-eight percent of these jobs pay more than $20 an hour and 80 percent pay more than $30 an hour. This translates to an overall average data center wage of about $68,000 a year, which is roughly double the countywide average wage of $35,000 a year.
The Department of Revenue also reports that 98.8 percent of all positions are full time, 99.3 percent offer medical benefits and 96.4 percent offer retirement benefits.
These jobs are being snatched up by local residents. Every time I visit one of the data centers I meet another employee who was born and raised locally and now has the job of his or her dreams.
The pathway leading to such jobs is becoming easier to travel as the tech companies invest tens of thousands of dollars into the local education system. In addition to internships at the college and community college level, there are also paid internships for students coming right out of high school.
Someone born 18 years ago in George or Coulee City or Wilson Creek now has the opportunity to do a local internship with some of the largest internet and technology companies in the world. Nowhere else in rural America are these kinds of opportunities available.
And the opportunities are only going to get better and better. With significant expansions at Server Farm Realty’s Titan data center, Sabey’s Intergrate Quincy data center and Microsoft’s new 200-acre data center campus, hundreds more jobs are still to come.
The way the industry is continuing to grow, Central Washington could easily be over 1,000 data center jobs by 2016 or 2017. This means a total of $68 million dollars in annual payroll and $37 million in consumer expenditures on housing, transportation, food and other items. This creates additional demand for retail and services and will lead to continued economic and business growth throughout Grant County.
Jonathan Smith is the executive director of the Grant County Economic Development Council.