LAS VEGAS (WOOD) — When the economy hit the skids a few years back, Rob Roy, the founder of data storage company Switch, was looking for ways to get Las Vegas back on its feet — and not just corporations.
“He wanted to find a way to say, ‘How do we move the community forward?'” Adam Kramer, the executive vice president for strategy at Switch, explained.
Roy’s solution was 65,000 square feet of space in the Switch office complex on the south side of Las Vegas.
The Innevation Center, the deliberate ‘nev’ misspelling a reference to the company’s home state, brings everyone from nonprofits to private businesses to government agencies together in a kind of zen approach to collaboration.
“We have startups, we have nonprofits, we have educational institutes all working side by side inside of this space,” Kramer said. “We’ve seen it where we had two nonprofit groups that were both working on the same educational issue, didn’t even realize it. Honestly, they met over coffee in the kitchen and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we could collaborate on this together.'”
Kramer last week gave 24 Hour News 8 a tour of the Las Vegas Innevation Center, which the company will duplicate in West Michigan as it expands into the old Steelcase pyramid south of Grand Rapids. The pyramid Innevation Center will go in on the upper floors.
Switch provides the space and technology for the center. For-profit organizations pay a small fee to participate, while Switch picks up the cost for nonprofits.
“You’re maybe developing technology out of the university system and you want to partner with the state on how you can bring in some larger partners, and you can do it all in the same hallway,” Kramer said.
The company considers the center a kind of corporate-style ‘pay it forward.’
“We spent over a million dollars a year to run our Innevation Center. But it’s part of Rob and Switch’s commitment to the community,” Kramer said.
So why would a company based in Nevada decide to make that same commitment to the Grand Rapids area, investing an anticipated $5 billion to transform the pyramid site into its East Coast data storage hub?
“When we first stepped foot into Grand Rapids, it was almost like a love at first sight moment,” Kramer said.
It was during ArtPrize 2015 that company officials flew in to check out a building recently purchased by Reno, Nevada-based real estate developer Norman Properties. Kramer says the university system and the medical facilities in West Michigan were among the selling points.
“Then you have this great culture that was just incredible,” Kramer said. “You have this architecture that was great. You have this great commitment to sustainability, more LEED-certified buildings than anywhere else.”
Switch’s reputation for giving back in Nevada is well documented. Company executives sit on a variety of boards.
The Switch SUPERNAP website says the company donates over $10 million annually, much of it going to economic development and education related ventures.
So how will Switch’s commitment to West Michigan measure up in a town where the bar has been set high by names like DeVos, Van Andel, Meijer and so many others?
“Where we can contribute to the community and we can partner with these great families and these great corporations that have helped build West Michigan into the community that was, that we fell in love with, yeah, we’re going to do that,” Kramer said.