County approves incentives for data center

County Commissioners signed off on another business-incentive deal, pledging $800,000 to a Massachusetts company they hope builds a large data center off Northeast Creek Parkway. The potential deal with Sentinel Data Centers received unanimous approval from the commissioners after local business leaders urged them to go ahead.

Sentinel’s project will boost the value of an existing building that “has been tremendously underutilized since 2002 and vacant since 2008,” Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ted Conner said.

County officials are expecting the firm to invest about $175 million into a project that will unfold in three phases and take up 300,000 square feet.

At that scale it would be comparable to a facility Sentinel opened last year in Somerset, N.J. The New Jersey building’s tenants include “a diversity of Fortune 500 enterprises,” according to a brochure for that project.

Because of that, the “employee counts are a little deceptive” as tenants at the Somerset facility have brought on average about 40 more workers of their own to each phase of that project, he said.

That means there “could be 100 to 200 additional employees” working at the Durham site, on top of Sentinel’s in-house work force, he said.

A deal of some sort with Sentinel has been in the works since the beginning of 2011, when chamber leaders learned of the company’s interest through their contacts with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Commerce, chamber President Casey Steinbacher said.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t use a piece of dirt for something [that instead] we could reuse a building that was kind of outmoded,” Conner said, adding that the chamber prefers to “save our available land for new uses that will need such land.”

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