Greater Tulsa Pulling G’s for Growth

Contributing Editor

OKLAHOMA WELCOME: Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry awards Lloyd Taylor, Director of Global Operations for Google, a medallion thanking him for bringing a major expansion to the MidAmerican Industrial Park in Pryor. The first of an expected several service centers for the worldwide Internet information center, it will employ about 100 persons as will each succeeding addition. The increases will be made as the need arises, said Taylor.

DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers

When a major Internet server wanted to find a site for a server farm how did they do it? Google googled its way to a major Pryor engagement.

As Lloyd Taylor, director of global operations for Google, tells it, the company knew it needed a lot of land, a lot of electricity and a lot of water. They wanted the facility to be more or less in the middle of the country. How did they find Pryor? They went on the Internet.

Sanders Mitchell, administrator of the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, has his own side of a story that has led to the beginning of a $600 million development within an hour’s drive for most Tulsans.

The project will bring its rewards with it. For each data center that is added, at least 100 jobs will accompany them with most of those of the high-paying variety. Just how many data centers will make up the final total no one is willing to speculate. Google will just add them as the need arises.

It was March 11, 2006 and Mitchell was basking in the glow of having just landed a major client in Gatorade when the call from Google came. After an initial period of disbelief, the MidAmerica people received a delegation from their mysterious suitor, a suitor that had some very specific needs but was light on such details as just who they were.

“For quite some time,” Mitchell recalls, “I had no confirmation as to who I was dealing with. I had it narrowed down quite a bit, but until the final contract was signed they (Google) wouldn’t admit who they were. It was an interesting time.”

Why Pryor? Why not the industrial park in Tulsa, for example? “We never,” says a Google representative, “comment on who we’re talking to, who we’ve considered, who we’ve rejected. We feel that when we come to an agreement, that’s the time to make an announcement.”

So what were the lures that made Pryor so enticing? “We had all the things they needed,” says Mitchell. “We had 800 acres of prime land that they could use both for their initial data center and for whatever expansion they plan to make in the future. We have plenty of electricity, and we have plenty of water to cool their equipment if they have to generate their own electricity as sometimes happens when we get a power outage in Oklahoma.

“They haven’t really discussed this, but I think one of the things that made us attractive to Google was that we were ready to move on the spur of the moment. We had an 86,000 square foot building already in place, which we had built on speculation. That means they are going to be able to be up and running in a fraction of the time of any other place.

“We also had a lack of red tape I think they found a huge advantage. In other locations so many agencies have to sign off on a project that it can be a year or more before any real movement can be made. I don’t think the team at Google was willing to wait that long.”

The landing of Google, when added to that of the $180 million Gatorade plant, which will employ 280 when it opens in September, is a huge boost for an industrial park Mitchell complains is too well-kept a secret.

The industrial park was originally a World War II smokeless powder plant that was shut down when the war ended, throwing 12,000 employees out of work. In 1960, under the leadership of Sen. Robert Kerr and Tulsa banker Russell Hunt among others, 10,800 acres (there are 640 acres in a square mile) formed the basis of the MidAmerican Industrial Park.

Since then, Mitchell says, firms have found havens in the park but it still is less than half full and has hundreds of acres of prime (flat) land. Is anyone negotiating for that land?

“We have some parties we’re talking to,” says Mitchell.

He’ll let you know when the time is right.

Updated 06-07-2007

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