Nevada Newsmakers

News - June 24, 2024 - by Ray Hagar

Tract, the data-storage center developer of Denver, Colo., plans to invest about $100 billion into the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex area of Storey County in the next decade.

So the end result will, of course, be big, Tract CEO Grant van Rooyen said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.

"Our project, across the first two gigawatts (2 million watts of power) will be the largest contiguous data-center development in the United States ... period," he told host Sam Shad. "And (it will be) one of the largest in the world."

"So, just to put it into context, on the scale of the infrastructure, the work we're delivering here, we are talking about some of the largest construction projects in the world," van Rooyen added.

Data-center employment appears to be a growing job market, as Uptime Institute Intelligence reported the data-center industry will need about 300,000 more employees by 2025, according to 2021 research by Data Center Dynamics.

The median salary for data-center employment in 2024 is almost $77,000 annually, according to the Zippia website. However, the median salary for data-center employees in nearby California is more than $107,000, according to other sources.

"The other piece I would observe is data centers are good neighbors," van Rooyen said.

In one aspect, "data centers come with low, low traffic compared to logistics buildings," van Rooyen said. "Communities are sensitive to traffic. I'm sensitive to traffic in my community.

"They also have high paying jobs, and there're not as many of them, if you will, as an industrial warehouse in the logistics business. But they're good, durable high-paying jobs that are backed by companies with phenomenal credits.

"They should be considered a prize to work at, and they are," he added.

Before the data centers are operational, there will be the construction phase and van Rooyen said that should attract new people to the Reno-Sparks region. His 11,000 acres have been acquired from the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex.

About $25 billion of the projected $100 billion to be invested in the next decade will go to construction and infrastructure, van Rooyen said.

"The first piece, there is the construction phase," he said. "And so we need to, alongside our construction partners, engage in what is heavy construction. And given the durability of these projects, ours included, we think that those are net new folks coming into the greater Reno area to be part of  this scale of construction."

The expansion of data-storage centers in Storey County may become a magnet for the construction industry.

"We think that there are a number of general contractors, electrical and civil, mechanical, that are increasingly seeing the greater Reno area and projects like ours as real magnets for them to either expand their work forces in the region or bring in net new talent to be able to facilitate projects like this."

He added:

"And then there's the steady state of the operating workforce that will participate in operating these facilities once they've been completed and once the services have been populated inside these buildings."

Van Rooyen mentioned issues of housing and traffic that will impact employees.

"We know housing is a sensitive topic in the greater Reno area but we take a holistic view to making sure that the region has everything that it needs to deliver on that," he said.

"There's obviously a lot of discussion going on in improving I-80 from Fernley into Reno," he added. "Those are all constituent projects that go into the overall mix in terms of continuing to make Storey County and the greater Reno area an incrementally attractive place to deploy capital."

The I-80 corridor's safety has become a major issue with the increased traffic brought on by the expansion of the many Fortune 500 businesses over the years at TRI and van Rooyen said he was aware of those concerns.

"The I-80 discussions have started long before we arrived, we certainly support them and embrace them," he said.

Van Rooyen said he has met with Gov. Joe Lombardo and has a positive feeling about him. Gov. Lombardo provided Tract with a quote for a news release last year about its first venture in the area, first buying 2,200 acres in Storey County at TRI. Now, Tract has about 11,000 acres.

“We look forward to working with Tract on their future plans for Northern Nevada and welcome them to the state,” Lombardo said in the release. “As the Nevada economy continues to diversify, technology companies will be a key component of our growth.”

Van Rooyen said Lombardo "is a lean and pro-business governor. He's been supportive of our business and our strategy here from the beginning."

Lombardo helps nurture a "pro business, pro-development environment," von Rooyen said.

"We think that his continued stewardship at the highest level of the state will continue to advance all the projects necessary to have a pro-business, pro-development environment where folks like us are prepared to take capital risk and invest billions of dollars of capital and create many, many jobs in this region."

Nevada's business approach is unique, van Rooyen said: "So it's not the same everywhere. And I would make that observation."