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A Massive Northland Data Center Could Help Kansas City Become A National Tech Hub

Golden Plains Tech Park Image C01.jpg
Courtesy of Diode Ventures
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Developers plan to start construction on Golden Plains Technology Park later this year.

A massive data center campus got the green light Thursday from the Kansas City Council, in hopes of making Kansas City more competitive as a national technology hub.

The council voted unanimously in support of a development plan and industrial revenue bonds for a data center complex at the northwest corner of Interstate 435 and U.S. Highway 169, straddling Clay and Platte counties.

If the full plan comes to fruition, it would encompass 5.5 million-square-feet of data center space on 767 acres, with a multibillion-dollar investment -- even bigger than the investment in a new Kansas City International Airport terminal.

Construction is expected to begin later this year and take about 11 years. It would involve thousands of construction jobs. Ultimately, the project is expected to generate about 360 full-time jobs with average annual wages of $85,000.

“This is an important and impressive project for the future of Kansas City, North,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said Thursday in endorsing the project, called Golden Plains Technology Park.

The campus will be built on undeveloped land currently used for agricultural purposes. Data centers house large groups of networked computer servers, and their facilities support the growing demand for data, cloud and other hosting services. They can be used for remote storage, data processing and distribution of large amounts of data.

Golden Plains Tech Park Image C02.jpg
Courtesy of Diode Ventures
The proposed data center would sit on 767 acres near the intersection of Interstate 435 and U.S. Highway 169.

The project, in the planning stages over the past three years, is being done by Velvet Tech Services LLC and Diode Ventures. Diode is the local developer and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Overland Park-based Black & Veatch. BNIM is the architect.

“We really believe that Kansas City can be an infrastructure hub as it relates to technology,” Diode Ventures President Brad Hardin told members of the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at an April 14 hearing. He said the intent “is to develop and attract Fortune 100 companies that are in the technology space to the Kansas City market.”

To date, Hardin said, Kansas City has lagged smaller Midwest markets like Des Moines, Omaha and Oklahoma City in attracting data centers. He said Kansas City is well-positioned to be competitive in this arena, with excellent resources in wind power, fiber and water capacity.

He said the technology park might also help Kansas City stop hemorrhaging young people who flee this area for good-paying technology jobs on the coasts.

Repayment of the revenue bonds is the developers’ responsibility, and there is no city debt or taxpayer obligation to repay.

The project does involve a significant property tax abatement, but it is on land that currently generates only about $20,000 in annual property taxes. Over the 37-year life of the plan, the project is expected to generate $1.8 billion in payments in lieu of taxes to schools and other government entities.

Attorneys for the developers said the project had been strongly endorsed by the Smithville, North Kansas City and Platte County R-3 school superintendents and by officials with other affected taxing jurisdictions who see it as a positive net gain for the region.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.

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