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Friday, 05 February 2016 12:40

Switch selects The Christman Co. as general contractor for data center project

Written by  Nick Manes and Andy Balaskovitz
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Former Steelcase pyramid building Former Steelcase pyramid building PHOTO: Nick Manes

GAINES TOWNSHIP — Switch Communications Group LLC has selected Lansing-based The Christman Co. to serve as the general contractor for the company’s data center project at the former Steelcase pyramid building, MiBiz has learned.

The Las Vegas-based operator of co-located cloud-based data centers plans to invest up to $5 billion into the West Michigan facility, a long-term construction project that company executives expect could last up to a decade.

Dan LaMore, senior vice president of West Michigan operations at Christman, confirmed the contractor was working with Switch, but deferred all questions about the relationship to Switch executives.

Switch Executive Vice President of Strategy Adam Kramer said more information would be released soon, but acknowledged that crews have started work on the 680,000-square-foot pyramid building.

“We hope to have the pyramid open later this year with a data center and office space,” Kramer told MiBiz in an interview this week at the Michigan Energy Conference in Detroit. “Then we’ll evaluate our needs and begin construction shortly thereafter. Our goal is to never stop building. We want this to be a non-stop construction project.”

Switch said it was drawn to the area for a variety of reasons, but neither the company nor its clients — said to include Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and eBay — could locate here unless they were exempted from state sales and use taxes.

Once fast-tracked, controversial legislation was passed and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in late December, the company committed to the investment, which includes a projected 1,000 new local jobs for Switch and its clients.

After the passage of the bills, Switch quickly moved forward with the project inside the pyramid building — which at one time housed a data center for Steelcase. Dozens of subcontractors are presently working at the site, according to sources familiar with the project.

Kramer declined to give the specific number of construction workers currently at the site, adding that a formal announcement could come in the following weeks or months.

“We’ll release more on that soon,” he said. “It’s a lot.”

As MiBiz has previously reported, the large-scale project at Switch’s pyramid site comes during a busy period for the region’s construction industry and at a time when many contractors say they face a labor shortage.

However, Switch has not encountered problems with finding contractors with the ability to ramp up for the project, which is the largest co-located data center east of the Mississippi River, according to Kramer.

“(T)here is an incredible workforce in West Michigan and we’ve been able to hire all local contractors,” he said. “We had absolutely no problem finding an incredibly well-qualified workforce in West Michigan and keeping every single contracting job local to Michigan.”

Michigan construction industry sources largely echoed Kramer’s assessment.

“There are workers available,” said Michael Smith, vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Michigan, a Lansing-based trade group. “The number of people is dwindling because of attrition — people leaving — but there are still workers available.”

Read 3696 times Last modified on Monday, 08 February 2016 13:52

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