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WisBusiness: Fitchburg picked as ideal spot for fortified data center

By Brian E. Clark

FITCHBURG – There’s no such thing as too much security or toughness when it comes to data centers.

That’s the thinking of the TEAM Companies, an Iowa-based firm that recently opened a new Tier 3 facility in the Fitchburg Technology Campus.  CDW Berbee is the anchor tenant for the center.

The "Tier 3" classification means the facility has 14-to-24-inch concrete and steel reinforced walls that can withstand an F4 tornado with 200-plus mph winds and a fire detection system that can identify minute smoke molecules. It also has multiple levels of redundancy that TEAM officials believe will all but eliminate the likelihood of a catastrophic failure.

As for security, it has features such as retinal scanners for personal identification. When built out, the $50 million project will cover 50,000 square feet and have more than 20 high-tech employees. It will run around the clock, 365 days a year.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility in terms of efficiency, cooling, power and security in the Midwest and nationally,” said Mark Kittrell, a TEAM Companies co-founder.  

“It’s built to the highest construction standards out there,” he said. “And it’s part of the new ‘info-structure’ that is an important underpinning of the new economy and the new IT and biotech jobs that the Midwest future is so dependent on.”

He said the idea for building super-secure data centers came to him after 9/11.

“Several of us were working on a project that day in Chicago,” he said. “On the eight-hour drive home, we said there are smarter places to put these kinds of data centers.

"We figured we should be looking in places other than downtown Washington, D.C., San Jose and Chicago that are pretty high on the terrorist threat list or have natural disaster problems. We should really be looking at safe secondary markets in the upper Midwest.”

The firm’s first site was in Cedar Falls, Iowa, base of the University of Northern Iowa and Kittrell’s hometown.

It showed its worth during this past summer’s disastrous, 500-year floods, which caused massive damage in that city and others. Because the TEAM Companies’ data center is on high ground five miles from the Cedar River, it provided sanctuary for hospitals, a utility company, phone systems and a cable TV provider and allowed them to keep their communications systems running.  

Also this summer, an F5 tornado with 300 mile-per-hour winds touched down near Cedar Falls and destroyed large parts of several small communities.

He said Fitchburg was a logical spot for a facility because of the area’s vibrant economy, connections to UW-Madison and location in the upper Midwest.  Other sites TEAM Companies is exploring are in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska. A data center will be opened later this year in Des Moines.

“In addition to being safe and meeting other criteria, Fitchburg also had the right connections to fiber and electric power,” he said.

“In the Madison area, it’s also ‘the’ growing location for technology service companies that are typically the kind of companies that would use a facility like ours,” he said.

Kittrell said his company has no plans in the near future to open any more data centers in Wisconsin.

“We can’t announce anything today, but we certainly have been pleased with the state and the welcome that we got,” he said, noting that TEAM Companies worked closely with Fitchburg officials on the project.

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