Switch on at Kent County pyramid

Nevada-based data storage company operations underway at former Steelcase site

Switch
The Switch pyramid in Gaines Township. (March 9, 2017)


GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — What’s billed as the largest, most advanced data center campus in the eastern United States is now open in Kent County.

Data storage company Switch made it official Thursday, telling 24 Hour News 8 the long-anticipated data center is up and running in the iconic pyramid in Gaines Township.

The company provides high-tech data storage servers, using patented technology developed by Switch founder Rob Roy.

It took Switch 14 months to transform the former Steelcase research and development facility into the Switch Pyramid Campus.

“Really, I don’t know if we could have done it at this speed anywhere else,” said Adam Kramer, vice president of strategy for Switch.

Kramer says the effort exceeded expectations.

“Which is why we love to not only call it home, but to be an advocate for the community with our friends in the tech community around the world,” said Kramer.

Many of the people now employed at the Pyramid Campus work for clients who use the storage service.

“Not only are they running their mission critical IT infrastructure out of the pyramid, they also have employees coming in and out of the pyramid every day to work on that equipment and support them, ” explained Kramer.

The familiar red air exchangers that cool the servers – a trademark of the Nevada based data storage company – now grace the site.

Build-outs are planned at the pyramid, including several more data center facilities over the next decade.

Switch surprised many in late 2015, announcing they’d plan to purchase the pyramid and move their East Coast operations into the building. It took a series of tax code changes by the state legislature to incentivize the creation of the new hub.

Like its sister centers in Nevada, the Pyramid Campus is big, high tech and a bit of a mystery, a video introduction on Switch’s website shows.

The company is very protective of the way it secures its clients’ data. That’s why only a select few get the tour – like the head of regional economic development organization The Right Place.

“When we walked through there about five, six weeks ago, I was astonished at the transformation of that building,” said President and CEO Birgit Klohs. “(It) just kind of blew my mind, actually.”

The company is on track to invest about $5 billion into the campus over the next decade. That translates into 1,000 new jobs, many of which are skilled trades.

And that could be one of Switches’ biggest challenges.

From the construction workers building the campus to the HVAC techs who ensure the Switch servers stay cool, skilled labor is in short supply these days.

But the industry is recruiting.

“They’re going to schools, they’re going to the community colleges, they’re starting internal training programs themselves. Like apprentice programs of old, they’re all in again,” said Klohs.

Switch plans on having an official grand opening later this year.

To apply for jobs at Switch, visit the company’s website.