Data center could be a game-changer for Springfield’s east side

A new public facility will create hundreds of jobs in east Springfield and could be a boon for area businesses.

The State of Illinois purchased 9.4 acres of land at Dirksen Business Park in the 2900 block of Dotmar Drive. The land will be the new headquarters for an $80.5 million central computing facility operated by the state Department of Innovation and Technology.

The center will have about 300 employees, most of whom will come from other state facilities, according to Jennifer Schultz, director of communications for the DoIT. The timing and construction of the project have not been determined.

Site employees will have a variety of roles in managing the state’s IT infrastructure, including managing personal data, maintaining state applications and data systems, and production operations, according to Schultz.

In 2019, Department of Innovation and Technology employees received a median compensation of $99,850, according to the public records database maintained by the nonprofit Better Government Association.

Past coverage:$80 million computer center for state government to be established in Springfield area

Stewart Conn owns Abe’s Hideout, a restaurant down the road from the proposed data center site.

“It’s going to be great for me and great for the east side,” Conn said.

Conn said he appreciates the business he receives from existing government facilities, such as the state Department of Transportation headquarters and county offices for juvenile corrections and animal control.

He added that he hopes the increase in the number of people working in the area will encourage more restaurants to set up shop.

“A lot of times the competition is good if you do your job well,” Conn said. “They’re not going to eat at my house five days a week.”

State Senator Doris Turner, D-Springfield, represented the area for 10 years on city council and now represents it in the state Senate. She argued for the location on the east side of the site.

“I’m really excited about this,” Turner said, adding that it will be a “game changer” for the region.

“It hasn’t been easy, but there have been small wins,” Turner said. She pointed to nearby hotel developments, the arrival of restaurants and Ascend, a cannabis dispensary that has redeveloped a building a mile south of the planned data center site.

Following:Governor JB Pritzker’s $45.4 billion budget plan includes $1 billion in tax cuts

Larry Quinn helped bring several businesses to the area, including Abe’s Hideout. He is a restaurant partner and owner of the mall, with his wife Julie, where Abe’s, a nail salon and a chiropractor are located.

“If that comes to fruition, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t, we could build something else,” Quinn said, referring to the data center.

Although he is optimistic that the center will help the restaurant and the mall, he is less optimistic about the retail business. Fewer retail stores are opening everywhere.

“Thank goodness for the east side that JCPenney stayed and they’re doing pretty well,” Quinn said.

The City of Springfield has had an interest in east side development for several years. Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said creating jobs and businesses in the area is one aspect of the city’s broader plan to address long-term inequality in the region.

“You have the main trade corridors, but there’s also housing,” Langfelder said. “That’s what we’re looking at right now.”

He said the city is considering using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal COVID-19 relief program, for housing initiatives in the area.

The data center will be the central IT hub for the DoIT and will serve various state agencies. It will be a “24/7/365 operations center,” according to Schultz. The facility will be built as a Tier 3 data center, which means it has redundant power and cooling systems, allowing staff to work on maintenance without shutting down.

It replaces a 43-year-old data center in downtown Springfield.

The land cost $1.55 million, according to an announcement from the governor. The $80.5 million was earmarked to pay for the design and construction of the project. EXP, a Chicago-based company, oversees the project. He built other data centers across the country.

“Through this new facility, we are enhancing the state of Illinois’ digital infrastructure and doing so while creating hundreds of new jobs in east Springfield,” Pritzker said in a statement.

The land was selected because of its proximity to other state offices, its fiber optic internet access, and its location in an Enterprise Zone – a special tax district that provides tax exemptions for new builds, among other developer benefits. Langfelder also said the city had a local utility, City Water, Light and Power, as a selling point for a location in Springfield.

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