Workers continue construction of one of the new Microsoft data centers on Tuesday in Cheyenne across from the Lowe’s Distribution Center. Once development in the Cheyenne Business Parkway and Bison Business Park is completed over the next few years, there will be a total of eight data centers in the state capital. Rhianna Gelhart/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Business leaders and local officials conveyed their excitement following the confirmation that Microsoft is building two new data centers in Cheyenne.

After the official announcement was made Monday, many said the partnership with the tech company will further opportunities for considerable capital investment, high-wage jobs, philanthropic investments and diversification of the state's economy.

The industry has expanded significantly since the construction of the first Microsoft data center in Cheyenne nearly a decade ago, along with the five other independent data centers gradually built in the area. Once development in the Cheyenne Business Parkway and Bison Business Park is completed over the next few years, there will be a total of eight data centers located in the state capital.

“This is really a very important win for Cheyenne,” said Mayor Patrick Collins, “and for the state of Wyoming.”

The process of getting to breaking ground on the two latest sites has been fast-paced, according to Cheyenne LEADS CEO Betsey Hale. Both properties were purchased within the past year and half, and Microsoft quickly approached business developers and government officials with the idea for a second center after the first piece of land was bought the previous July.

Hale said the data center in the new Bison Business Park was envisioned just a month later, and would not have been possible without the efforts of the mayor, City Council, Laramie County Planning Commission and other local entities. She made a comparison to the speed of light, as the first phase of the annexation of the initial 500 acres for the business park started last November and was completed by February of this year.

“It’s a great success story,” she said, “and I think it’s one of the reasons that Microsoft has really taken a positive look at Cheyenne, Laramie County and Wyoming. It’s our ability to be nimble and to execute rapidly.”

Another reason for Microsoft’s continued investment in the southern part of the state can be attributed not only to the naturally arid and cool climate, but a healthy business environment, as well. Collins said incentives created by the Wyoming Legislature to attract data centers in the last session, as well as historically tax-friendly policies, are beneficial.

But the positive economic relationship goes both ways, according to regional economic models and a Cheyenne LEADS report released within the past year. Not only are high-paying jobs created for residents, but data centers had an annual positive impact of $82 million on state GDP in 2020, as well as paid $18.7 million in sales tax on power and $40.6 million in property taxes after opening.

Laramie County Commissioner Gunnar Malm said this has a direct impact on the community, as those dollars go into the county's general fund and other tax districts. He explained how it can shift the financial burden off of residents to help with the cost of supporting the library, road maintenance, schools, fire districts and more.

“Those help the general fund and allow us to pick up costs of programs that the state is slowly phasing out of being able to fund,” he said.

Philanthropic efforts through Microsoft TechSpark and the Datacenter Community Development program also are proving to be beneficial for Wyoming.

Microsoft partnered with the Wyoming Department of Education to host ongoing computer science training for more than 30 school districts across the state, as well as higher education institutions. And over a million dollars was invested to launch three adult upskilling programs to respond to COVID-19 challenges, including a Microsoft Datacenter Academy at Laramie County Community College.

The new data centers are also being built with a sustainable design to focus on going carbon neutral and preserving Cheyenne's water resources. Nearly half a million dollars in sustainability grants was also granted to local organizations to help preserve Wyoming’s natural environment and the region’s key watershed, including the Crow Creek revival project.

More programs like this continue to be developed by the company in partnership with community leaders, which Hale said was a sign of a good corporate citizen.

“This is a growth opportunity for Wyoming,” she said.

Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached by email at jhall@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.

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