August 01, 2017


It's no secret that the economy is changing. As technology plays a greater role in our personal and professional lives, our economy too increasingly relies on technology to create jobs and encourage growth. Technology is the foundation of our digital economy, and its modern infrastructure is data.

However, in order to use data, we need a place to process and store it - in other words, data centers. Data centers are facilities that house the computers that process data. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are three million data centers across the country - including here in Alabama.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Chamber Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) recently set out to learn how data centers impact their local communities, and the findings were substantial. According to our recent report, the average data center adds $32.5 million in economic activity to its local community each year.

Our report reveals that during construction, the average data center employs 1,688 local workers and provides them $77.7 million in wages. Additionally, building the average data center generates $243.5 million in output throughout a local economy's supply chain and produces $9.9 million in revenue for state and local governments, which can then be used for public services. For every year that follows, that same data center goes on to support 157 local jobs paying $7.8 million in wages. It injects $32.5 million into the local economy and generates $1.1 million in revenue to state and local governments.

The economic benefits of data centers can be seen here in Alabama, where they have been a significant boost to the state economy. Google is currently building a $600 million data center in Jackson County and plans to create over 100 high-paying jobs. Other major companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, AT&T, and Atlanta-based power company Southern Company have already invested millions of dollars building data centers around Birmingham.

Across the country, data centers are powering communities, creating jobs, and driving economic growth. They support local communities both directly and indirectly through improving public infrastructure such as roads, power lines, water, and sewage systems and providing millions of dollars to local governments. Local infrastructure improvements and robust commercial activity can also help bring more businesses to the area, which can create jobs and spur additional economic growth.

However, beyond our local communities, data centers are also important to our global competitiveness. Innovations in science, energy, manufacturing, health care, education, transportation and many other fields depend on new technology and the ability to store and process data. Data centers create a foundation for the technology that has supported distance learning courses that improve education for both children and adults, wearable technologies that encourage healthy lifestyles, and lifesaving gene therapies for diseases like cancer.

The innovations that change the world start here at home. To create jobs in Alabama, spur innovation, and drive economic growth, we need to support investment in data centers. We need to create a business environment that encourages research and development. We need smart tax policies that incentivize investments in innovative and job-creating technology, and we need to lift burdensome regulations that prevent entrepreneurs from creating new products. The thousands of Americans working to build and operate data centers are proof that - with the right policies in place - data centers can create jobs in our communities that power innovation across the country and around the world.

By Tim Day,senior vice president of C_TEC (Chamber Technology Engagement Center), U.S. Chamber of Commerce