From flyover state to the new home of the Cloud, Kansas City is becoming a hot data center market

Settled on the western edge of Missouri, Kansas City straddles the border with the state of Kansas. It is known for its barbecue, jazz heritage, and fountains. On the list of known features, data centers might not even come to mind.

So, it may come as a surprise to some that Kansas City, Missouri, is a burgeoning data center market.  Major power players in  hyperscale and the Cloud space are staking claim to this area, include META and Amazon Web Services (AWS).  Though data centers are not entirely new to the area. More than 100 enterprise companies with corporate headquarters in Kansas City have long had colocation data centers in the area.

Currently, Diode Ventures’ own Golden Plains Technology Park hyperscale data center campus is under construction. The 750 megawatt (MW), 5 million square feet campus will rank among the world’s largest data center campuses.

What’s driving the move to the Midwest?

The early Tier I markets (Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia, and Atlanta), who have access to subsea cable landing stations, are running out of room. And the Tier II markets (Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas) are quickly following suit. Kansas City and other smaller, newer markets are emerging. What is making areas like Kansas City so attractive? The cost of energy is a big factor. According to Southwest Power Pool, manager of the grid and wholesale power market serving KC Metro, the average wholesale electric price is the lowest in the nation at just $30/MWh. Following suit with Loudoun County Virginia, the Missouri Public Service Commission approved a special incremental load rate in 2019 to further lower the power rate for data centers and other mega energy users for long-term, low-cost electricity.

Another element to the move to Kansas City has to do with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and how we now conduct everyday life. As more companies are shifting to either a hybrid or fully remote workforce, classrooms are going virtual, telemedicine is becoming standard practice and driver-assist vehicles are becoming more prevalent, the need for data centers continues on a high trajectory.

According to a recent report from Data Center Knowledge, “Demand for data centers set a new record in 2021, particularly in the United States, which absorbed 885.7MW across 14 domestic markets – a 44.3% increase year-over-year from 2020, which itself set a record of 614 MW, an increase of more than 70% from 2019.”

As every major player in the data center space has made a public commitment to zero carbon or another renewable energy goal, it’s vital for markets to provide green energy to attract these players. Regional electric utility, Evergy, made bold moves by increasing their wind and solar assets to nearly 5,000 MW and providing more than a quarter of their generation capacity through renewable facilities. Scheduled to start operations by the end of 2024, Nextera Energy Resources is constructing a massive 320 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) project in West Gardner.

Attractive cost of living

As data centers continue to enter in the Kansas City market, companies will start to look for talent in the area to help construct and maintain these facilities. As the great migration from high cost of living areas such as California to more affordable areas continues, Kansas City is poised to see an influx of tech talent. Making this area enticing is the 89.8 cost-of-living index. Throw in that Missouri ranks 8 in housing affordability, with the median home value at $168,000, the area is prime for those looking to work in tech but are looking to stretch their income further and provide a place to plant roots.

 What Kansas City means to E2 Optics

Kansas City will be a new market for E2 Optics. We eagerly enter this market and look forward to providing our hyperscale customers with trusted low voltage solutions. Our portfolio of projects in the area is projected to continue to grow, allowing us to provide not just a job but a career for our employees.

For those looking to work in the trades, E2 Optics offers not just another job but a career. We offer industry leading training, not just at entry level but throughout an employee’s tenure. From safety training to OSHA certification to industry courses, field staff who start with E2 Optics often see themselves on a career path. On average, an entry level technician with E2 Optics can advance to a management track within 18 to 24 months.

Training does not stop after you are onboarded. For E2, we want to ensure our field staff are up to date with the latest certifications and training in our industry. We have established a program which provides everyone the opportunity to continue their career path with on the job field training, training at our training center, one-on-ones with management, along with quarterly meetings with project management to keep everyone on the same page.

From barbecue to jazz to fountains to data centers, Kansas City is quickly rising up the ranks to be on par with Tier I markets. As a location with low energy costs, green energy alternatives and an attractive cost-of-living, the Kansas City region is an ideal place for hyperscalers, cloud providers and large enterprises looking for digital infrastructure in the Midwest.

To learn more about career opportunities at E2 Optics, please click here.