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Googling Reno: Search Engine Giant Adds To Area's Data Center Boom

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Bloomberg via Getty Images
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For a place that enjoys more than 250 sunny days a year, Reno gets a lot of clouds — as in cloud computing.

Google just joined a parade of companies including Apple and Las Vegas-based Switch to choose Northern Nevada for a data center site.

The search engine giant purchased 1,200 acres in April at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Storey County for use as a data center for cloud computing and storage of data such as YouTube videos.

The Reno area has seen a spate of data center investment, with companies drawn by its available land, business-friendly environment, reliable electric supplies, and proximity to Silicon Valley.

Google is the latest marquee tenant at the sprawling industrial park, which is home to the Tesla Gigafactory. Amazon and Panasonic also have operations there.

However, data centers may not bring the number of jobs that some may expect, said Yevgeniy Sverdlik, editor of the trade publication Data Center Knowledge.

He said that while construction of the centers will create thousands of jobs, center operations won't employ many people and, as some of the functions of engineers get moved to artificial intelligence, even less staffing will be needed.

“They don’t employ a whole lot of people right now and they’re probably going to be employing fewer people in the future,” he said.

Sverdlik said data centers do attract other data centers and they do tend to expand. But he can't say that they provide the base for an expanding technology-based economy.

“That’s the hope of probably every area that has attracted data centers,” he said, but there are very few examples of that happening and, “if that happens it will take a long, long time.”

Despite the uncertainty of what a data center will really do for Northern Nevada, Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman believes it is just part of the expanding high-tech sector in his part of the state. 

Gilman is also the real estate broker for the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center where many of the companies are set up. Besides data centers, the industrial park is also home to fulfillment centers, distribution centers, and manufacturing.

“Between Panasonic and Tesla, we have an incredibly diverse amount of products now being produced here in Nevada,” Gilman said and having Google "puts us on a different run of the ladder if you will."

Yevgeniy Sverdlik, editor, Data Center Knowledge; Lance Gilman, Storey County commissioner

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.