By Michael Tomberlin
DC Blox has opened its flagship hub data center in Birmingham, the first of what could become a $785 million investment in infrastructure seen as key to the city and state’s growth in the technology-based economy.
Thursday, DC Blox held the grand opening of the first phase of its Alabama headquarters with 13,000 square feet of office space and 18,000 square feet of data center space. The company said growth plans could add 18 more buildings and a total of 200,000 square feet to the former Trinity Steel site in Birmingham’s Titusville community.
“We knew this site could be the nexus of connectivity for cloud computing, for medical research with its proximity to UAB and this location could enhance the development of the automotive technologies as Alabama’s prominence in automotive manufacturing leads our nation,” said Jeff Uphues, CEO of DC Blox. “This is really the nexus of connectivity in the state of Alabama. Behind our gates, virtually every fiber carrier sits that we connect to the north, to the south, to the east to the west.”
Uphues said the facility already connects to its data center in Huntsville and within the next 30 days it will connect to the RSA data center in Montgomery.
“With this technology innovation campus, Alabama and Birmingham can continue its renaissance across the iron bridge to its digital future,” Uphues said. “This facility can and will spur digital innovation in the city, the region and the state. The access to cloud services and innovation in Alabama connects here.”
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said it can’t be overstated how important it is to have DC Blox locate the hub in the state.
“This is about technology,” Canfield said. “This is about the rebirth of Alabama’s economy as we shift more to tech-driven opportunities, particularly for the Birmingham region.”
A tech-based economy must have key infrastructure for storing and protecting data and connectivity to other key hubs across the country. Canfield said DC Blox provides that.
“What DC Blox brings to the table is that level of support that we targeted – called a foundational target – they represent that service that is provided to advanced manufacturers, to other service companies,” Canfield said. “They provide that digital protection of all of the data that’s important to these companies and they’re doing it right here in Birmingham, right here in Alabama.”
Josh Carpenter, director of the Birmingham Mayor’s Office for Innovation and Economic Development, said Birmingham wants to become a leader in the tech economy and it now has a key element to do just that.
“We think this is going to be a compelling infrastructure asset for us to attract new companies that use data – whether they’re interested in precision medicine or high-tech, high-growth startups like Shipt, Fleetio or Therapy Brands,” he said.
The Alabama Department of Commerce, the city of Birmingham, Jefferson County, the Birmingham Business Alliance and Alabama Power were among those who worked to bring the DC Blox project to Birmingham.
The 27-acre property in Titusville was once home to Trinity Industry, Ingalls Steel and Mosher Steel – all one-time giants in the steel industry that was instrumental in the birth and growth of Birmingham.
“What better metaphor for the transition of Birmingham’s economy than to take a steel site that had been dormant for 30 years and to make it into a data center that’s on the cutting edge of technology in our city,” Carpenter said.
“If you were going to pick a site in the Birmingham area that would have the most historical impact, this would be the site,” he said.
Uphues said he is well aware of the property’s history but he is most interested in its future.
“That heritage of innovation can continue on this property,” he said. “We’re going to do our part.”
The DC Blox project is, in many ways, already “doing its part.”
The money the city of Birmingham made off the sale of the property provided the seed money for the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Fund, which is already spending money in Titusville to improve streets, sidewalks and lighting, Mayor Randall Woodfin said. Tax dollars generated from DC Blox will go toward education programs like The Birmingham Promise, which gives high school students job and education tracks beyond high school.
Uphues said he wants the DC Blox facility to become a part of workforce development for the community.
“One of the ways that we built this facility is we’ve built it as a technology and innovation campus,” noting the potential for shared office space, training rooms and the housing of equipment. “It is our goal to bring all of the global leading manufacturers into this facility and then train the people – both the enterprises and businesses as well as students under intern programs – and bringing other people into here to help elevate that knowledge around technology.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was among the officials on hand for DC Blox’s grand opening.
“We live in a digital age, and the world is not standing still. DC Blox’s new data center is certainly a welcome addition to the Birmingham community,” Ivey said. “It will connect the city with high-performance networks to ensure business continuity, and ultimately, it will drive the digital economy.”
As welcoming as the city and state has been to DC Blox, Uphues said the company is excited to play a part in the renaissance he sees taking place.
“This city is indeed magical. The renaissance of Birmingham is undeniable. The renaissance of Alabama is undeniable from what we’ve seen across the country. Believe me, I travel all over the Southeast and it’s remarkable what is happening in this great state of Alabama,” he said. “We feel very welcome in sweet home Alabama and you have indeed lived up to the reputation of being a magic city.”
This story originally appeared on alabamanewscenter.com