Switch’s bright, modern lobby is in sharp contrast to much of its functional space, which includes room for rows and rows of client servers. Courtesy Switch
More than 1,000 contractors have had a hand in the Switch Pyramid campus in Gaines Township since legislation passed in December 2015 to bring the data center company to West Michigan.
In the first 12 months of occupancy of the former Steelcase Pyramid, the company has spent more than $50 million to renovate the building into a Tier IV data center, said Adam Kramer, Switch’s executive vice president of strategy. Kramer also said 99 percent of the contractors who have had a hand in the building have been based in Michigan, tracked by driver’s licenses.
The Business Journal toured the Switch facility last week with Kramer. The pyramid houses 225,000 square feet of data center space and the site eventually could house 1.8 million square feet.
“You can see every dollar of it,” Kramer said. “It’s important that we’re hiring local to work on this job site.”
Switch officially chose Grand Rapids for its East Coast data center when it received incentives from the state in December 2015 and promised a first-phase investment of $151 million and 103 jobs by 2021. The economic impact of the first 10 years is projected to be $5 billion and 1,000 jobs.
A second 471,248-square-foot data center building has been approved by Gaines Township and will begin construction as soon as client demand calls for it, Kramer said. Switch, which opened its initial data center in Las Vegas in 2000, has been constructing daily since 2007.
“Our timeline is to keep building, the internet doesn’t stop growing and neither does Switch,” he said. “We will continue to grow to fit the needs of our clients. Through good, through bad, Switch is always growing because the internet is.”
Switch is in a state of perpetual growth. The company’s Las Vegas Core Campus has 2.4 million square feet of data center space, and the company recently opened its first facility in Tahoe Reno Citadel Campus, which is projected to be the world’s largest data center campus.
Switch also recently opened data centers in Milan, Italy, and Bangkok, Thailand. The company is beginning to work on built-to-suit single tenant centers.
There are multiple contracts pending or signed by Switch’s more than 1,000 clients to house data center servers within the Grand Rapids campus, Kramer said. Switch’s clients include government entities — including the state of Michigan — banks, movie production companies, video game companies and retailers.
Notable clients include eBay, DreamWorks, Zappos, REI, MGM, HP, PayPal and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Switch provides the infrastructure for clients to store their servers and information. Tenants regularly upgrade their equipment and keep employees in the area to manage the servers. Companies also have located offices to Las Vegas to be near their data, as mentioned in previous Business Journal reports.
Many existing clients have expressed interest in the company’s East Coast facility, and Kramer said new customers also are intrigued, despite the initial goal of supporting existing clients on the eastern side of the nation.
“The reception of clients outside the state of Michigan has been just phenomenal, both our clients on the West Coast and East Coast, when we share with them why we chose Michigan, they’ve flown out here and fallen in love with it the same way we did,” he said. “We’re excited about the growth opportunities. We have attracted new clients as well because of the opportunity, including local companies waiting for a Tier IV environment in their backyard.”
Switch has multiple partnerships in the works with Michigan companies, including a renewable energy initiative set to be released soon. Kramer confirmed a second year of its partnership with ArtPrize and talked about its workforce development with Grand Rapids Community College.
The jobs would be related to Switch’s proprietary technologies relating to supporting the data centers, such as air conditioning and electrical systems. Switch has more than 260 patents for data center technologies and design.
“We can start building a pipeline directly from the schools to working here at Switch on mission critical spaces,” he said.
Kramer said Switch will open one of its Innevation Centers in the office floors or the pyramid, a collaborative workspace for the community. Kramer said Switch will be careful to collaborate and not step on toes of programs already offered in West Michigan in terms of economic development.
Another community partnership was purely out of Switch founder and CEO Rob Roy’s commitment to karmic actions. A First Robotics Competition team from East Kentwood High School made it to the global competition but needed $13,000 to travel and didn’t have the funds.
Kramer took the request to Roy, and the trip was financed.
“They didn’t know if they’d get to go or not, these kids had worked so hard,” Kramer said. “The reason we love First Robotics is Rob really sees the next Rob Roy coming out of one of those teams. This building represents STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — First Robotics represents that same set of skills.
“We don’t support it because we have to. We support it because we want to. We want to be part of this community, support the growth. We love West Michigan.”