Construction began Friday on a $75-million Telus Internet data centre off McGill Road, but not before the corporation's CEO sweetened the deal with a $425,000 donation to the RIH Foundation.
"My God, what a view," said Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle, grinning as he took in the valley panorama from a perch around the corner from the existing Q9 data centre. "These are going to be the luckiest servers in the data centre world."
In striking contrast with Q9 Networks' hush-hush approach to its development two years ago, Entwistle took full advantage of the occasion, surrounded by employees, retirees, politicians — including Premier Christy Clark — and others from the community.
Telus is accelerating the project as part of a $100-million investment in Kamloops over the next three years, Entwistle said.
And won't be just another new data centre on the block.
"Important in today's economic environment, this data centre will create 200 construction jobs and once stabilized, 75 permanent jobs in the region," Entwistle said. "It will be the most environmentally sustainable and secure facility of its kind in the world. Indeed, I think it will exemplify one more way we are putting the customer first in our minds."
The centre is designed modularly, enabling the company to gradually increase space for technical equipment to meet the growing demands of clients, who range from small businesses to large corporations and governments.
Scheduled for completion a year from now, the 215,000 square-foot data centre represents a cornerstone of the company's next-generation "cloud" computing service. Cloud computing is the provision of computing and storage capacity to customers, who, in this case, include B.C. Hydro and the Ministry of Health.
"This data centre is going to do good things and help us answer some of society's most profound social problems," Entwistle said, referring to health care. In future, people will be able to access their own health records online.
He suggested the data centre could be a catalyst for additional high-tech investment in the region because of its seismic stability and some of the lowest electrical rates in North America. TRU represents a source of skilled workers and Kamloops itself offers appeal as a place to raise a family.
The centre will incorporate state-of-the-art efficiency, Telus said. Generally, data centres are known to consume vast amounts of electricity, but this one will used up to 80 per cent less power than others and is designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. It will use half the energy of a toaster to cool 1,500 servers, he added to another round of applause.
In addition to locating the centre here, Telus plans to invest $25 million in Kamloops over the next three years to expand wireless technology and bring its Optik TV service to more neighbourhoods.
At the ceremony, a novelty cheque was flipped over, revealing a $360,000 donation to the RIH Foundation. That figure represented $100 donated for every Optik TV purchase or smartphone activation. Entwistle then crossed out the sum and wrote in $425,000, representing 425 Telus employees and their families in the area.
As well, the company is donating to the City the platform, boardwalk and canopy used for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The sunny-skies announcement was a far cry from the bitterness that followed the government's cancellation three months ago of a Telus deal to rename B.C. Place. The company said it jumped through hoops to win the rights in exchange for $1.75 million a year.
"Yes, there has been a bump in the road, but overall the relationship has been a good one," Clark said earlier, pointing to the 10-year, $1-billion telecommunications contract signed a year ago with the Vancouver-based corporation.
The most important aspect of the Telus project is that it builds a stronger community, she said.
"I thought the thing seemed unbelievable when I talked with Darren Entwistle two years ago," she said.
Mayor Peter Milobar said the project took about three years to break ground because it involved the divestment of former school district property.
"It's one more indication to the outside world that we are a viable technological hub," he said.
There was competition between several dozen B.C. municipalities, including Prince George, to land the data centre. However, Kamloops offered seismic advantage and low humidity for reduced cooling demands.