$200 million mystery: Which company is considering a data center in Sarpy County? - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:43 pm
$200 million mystery: Which company is considering a data center in Sarpy County?

Sarpy County is positioning itself to try to land a $200 million data center, code-named Project Oasis, north of Springfield.

Few people know the identity of the company, and those who do know have signed nondisclosure agreements.

But the Sarpy County Board will decide today whether to apply for $750,000 in state incentives to help build roads, water lines and sewers to a data center that would sit on the southwest corner of 144th Street and Schram Road.

“This whole thing came up real fast,” board Chairman Jim Warren said.

The Sarpy County Economic Development Corp. has worked for months to lure the company.

Last year, it signed a two-year purchase option on the 140-acre parcel, according to county records. As competition for data centers has ramped up, local economic development officials have been trying to get sites ready.

Sarpy County Administrator Mark Wayne said he has been in the loop for five to six months but doesn't know the name of the company, either. More information will be revealed in time, he said.

The hope is to have a development agreement in place by September. “This is not all cut in stone yet,” he said.

The county's planning commission has approved rezoning the parcel as light industrial and platting an adjacent site for a new Omaha Public Power District substation, Wayne said.

The substation is not necessarily contingent on Project Oasis, OPPD spokesman Mike Jones said, “but we are going to support Sarpy County in its economic development efforts.”

Toby Churchill, executive director of the Sarpy County Economic Development Corp., said he wouldn't comment “on projects that we may or may not be working on.”

County documents show that Churchill prepared the application for a $750,000 state infrastructure grant fund overseen by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

He referred comments to Karla Ewert, a spokeswoman for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, who declined to comment. A deputy director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development also declined to comment.

Under the proposal, the county would pay $651,000 to extend a mile and a half of sewer line. The company would be responsible for normal per-acre sewer fees when the site was platted and built.

The county would also bear two-thirds of the cost to pave Schram Road from 144th to 150th Street, an expense that has been built into the county's upcoming roads budget, Wayne said. Sewer extension costs would be paid out of the sewer fund.

“We'd have to figure out how to do (the sewers),” Wayne said. “We might have to take out a loan, because we wouldn't want to use property tax dollars for that.”

County Board member Tom Richards of Bellevue said a data center would be an economic boon for the area.

“Data centers traditionally don't have a lot of jobs involved, but they're good-paying jobs,” he said. “And all of these data centers have the capability of expanding to more than they initially hire.”

Richards, who manages government and community relations at OPPD, knows the company's identity but can't reveal it. In the grant application, it is described only as a Fortune 200 company.

There are hints of competition for the project. In February, officials in Altoona, Iowa — the same Des Moines suburb that beat Kearney, Neb., for a $300 million data center for Facebook — said they had been in discussions with a company about a data center.

The code name? Project Oasis.

Altoona officials didn't return calls, and Iowa Economic Development spokeswoman Tina Hoffman declined to comment.


Project better name

Sarpy County is trying to land Project Oasis, a $200 million data center north of Springfield. Meantime, you can still audition for the job of person-who-code-names-secret-economic-development-projects. In one or two words, what would you call the next big hush-hush project that comes to the metro area?

PROJECT

See what other people are suggesting

Contact the writer: Cody Winchester

cody.winchester@owh.com    |   402-444-1216    |  

Cody Winchester is a metro-area watchdog reporter. He covers Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

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