Dozens of high-wage technology jobs could be coming to Prineville, courtesy of a company so secretive its name isn’t even known by those in city government.
For the past several months, Prineville has been negotiating with Vitesse LLC, a company that is serving as the site-selector for the now-unnamed company that would operate a proposed data center. Data centers are banks of powerful computers, most commonly used to manage Internet traffic and provide server space for Web pages.
Prineville City Manager Steve Forester said he’s been told that Vitesse is representing a well-funded, well-known company, and all of its efforts during the selection process suggest it is.
“The the only thing I could tell you is this is not unlike what the city of The Dalles went through when Google sited their data center in their community,” he said. “A very similar process, they had a code name for an LLC that did their preliminary work with the city and the county, and it turned out to be Google. And up in Moses Lake, Washington — where they have several of these things — same pattern.”
Jason Carr, who heads up Crook County economic development efforts for Economic Development for Central Oregon, said a non-disclosure agreement bars him from talking about the project even in the most general terms.
Forester said the city has heard from multiple site-selection companies inquiring about locating data centers in Prineville, but only Project Vitesse — the city’s name for the project — has proceeded to this stage.
On Tuesday, the Prineville City Council is scheduled to consider selling a 1-acre piece of property to Vitesse for $50,000, annex two adjacent properties to the city and approve a 15-year property tax exemption for the company that would operate the data center.
The proposed facility would be located near the Prineville Airport in an enterprise zone. The enterprise zone designation authorizes the city to waive property taxes for eligible projects.
Cool nights and low-cost electricity provided by the Bonneville Power Administration both make Central Oregon an attractive location for data centers.
The center’s computers will consume an enormous amount of electricity, Forester said, and in most cases, a similarly large amount of electricity will be used to air condition the facility to keep the computers from overheating.
“The cost of cooling these operations is exorbitant; it’s one of their key drivers,” he said. “So here, even though we have 100 degree days in Central Oregon, that 100-degree day might have a 55- or 45-degree night. Half of that 24-hour period will be in the 50s or 60s.”
Hoffman said technology companies have only recently come to accept that a data center doesn’t need to be located next to their corporate headquarters, and more rural locations help keep costs down.
“What they’re looking for is where can they site these things that gives them the lowest cost of operations,” Hoffman said. “And I think Central Oregon, and particularly Prineville because of the tax exemption with the enterprise zone, proximity to power and the climate they desire, makes this a preferred site.”
The tax exemption would require the data center to employ at least 35 people, Forester said, while construction of the facility is expected to employ at least 100 people for up to three years. If negotiations proceed as expected, Forester believes the company behind Vitesse may be ready to release its name within three months.