Verizon Pulls Plug On $4B Data Center In Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Verizon's decision to pull the plug on possibly building a $4 billion data center in Wyoming is disappointing but hasn't short-circuited the state's allure to the digital industry, a state economic development official said Friday.

"I think that what it did for us though in terms of our ability to attract other data centers was validate what we've been saying all along — is that this is a right place for folks that are looking for building data centers to do it," said Robert Jensen, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council. "Our attractiveness to people in sort of the broad range of the digital industry continues to grow."

In January, Verizon Communications Inc. acquired a two-year option on 160 acres about a mile north of Laramie for a possible data center. But the company announced Thursday that it had acquired another company with established data centers around the world.

Verizon spokeswoman Lynn Staggs said the company won't need to build a data center before its lease option in Laramie expires, but it found Wyoming to be an attractive location for a data center.

"None of the reasons that we had chosen Wyoming have changed," Staggs said. "So if and when we get to that point where we would be expanding our data center portfolio, there's no reason that Wyoming wouldn't be held in the same high esteem that we held it previous to this announcement."

The state worked hard to land the Verizon center. The Legislature this year approved tax incentives for mega data centers that locate in Wyoming and earmarked $15 million for infrastructure improvements that would support data centers.

Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement Friday that the state's incentives were not intended to target a specific company or location.

"This was a business decision that Verizon made, and I am proud the company speaks so highly of Wyoming and our business climate," Mead said.

Jensen noted that smaller data centers are being built or expanded in Cheyenne and Sheridan and there are about six separate conversations with various people considering major data centers in Wyoming.

"There's a number of large ones in the half-a-billion to over a billion-dollar range ... that are looking at the state too," he said.

Besides the tax incentives and money for infrastructure, Wyoming is attractive to data centers for a number of reasons, including a cool climate that offers natural savings on air conditioning bills, the lack of earthquake danger in most of the state and the availability of reliable electric power, Jensen said.

"One thing's for sure is that things are not going to quit getting digitized, and these industries that take advantage of this — this digital revolution — are going to continue to grow," he said.