21 May


So, the big economic development news around the region is that the RC Cola of Internet search engines and aggregation portals, Yahoo! will be opening a new datacenter in WNY.

The New York Power Authority — which previously came under fire for denying power allocation to a planned data center in Albion for Google — unanimously approved power for a similar facility for Yahoo! today.

Gov. David Paterson announced the decision and discussed details of the proposal in a teleconference this morning.

One site in Genesee County and two in Niagara County are under consideration.

The facility would cost $150 million and when completed would employe about 125 people with an average salary of $65,000.

Ordinarily, a geek like me would be quite excited about this.  Unfortunately, I’m not.  I know that I am supposed to simply be grateful that anyone would open a business facility in WNY, but I want a plan.

The three locations under consideration are reportedly not near any urban areas, thus reducing the opportunity for spinoff development or the concentration of existing resources.  This facility should be urban or at least suburban to Buffalo in order to generate a tangible amount of tangential economic development equivalent to the massive outlay of free power we are providing. The Lakeside Commerce Park comes to mind as a nice option, with its proximity to the city, highways, wind/hydropower.

Yahoo! has been busy with building out datacenters across the country with the most recent announcement of a $150MM facility buildout in a suburb of Omaha, NE. Spinoff development is rampant in the other areas that these datacenters are being constructed because the regions in which they are built have coordinated plans for development.  In a blog interview a few months ago, Yahoo’s VP of Infrastructure, Kevin Timmons laid out the criteria for site selection:

We’ve established a systematic process that takes some 30+ factors into consideration to point us to our most ideal location. Some of the most obvious factors are those that turn out to be the highest cost drivers – things like current and projected energy cost, fiber availability and pricing, state and local incentive packages, construction costs, and the area’s weather data and carbon intensity.

As someone who works in the datacenter modeling and infrastructure business, I can tell you that fiber availability, performance and pricing within the city limits are some of the best in the country.  We were a natural choice for Yahoo! due to our prevalence of clean, renewable energy and cool climate.  See any reasons why we should be developing a strategic plan around this growing business vertical?

If the site is built near the urban center of Niagara Falls and there is a strategic plan put in place to leverage the Yahoo! investment into growing a business competency around datacenters in WNY, I’ll be behind the idea.  However, placing the facility in Medina away from our university centers, business support companies, and infrastructure only encourages sprawl and wasteful planning.  Which will make the arrival of Yahoo! nothing more than a symbol and I think we have enough symbolic achievements in this area.

10 Responses to “Yahoo?”

  1. FancyWow May 21, 2009 at 7:40 am #


    How does this analysis move from your blog to the attention of the masses and the pols? Who’s positioned to carry this message?

    This is the economic development equivalent of “I have a girlfriend, she’s from Canada…you don’t know her” If folks can’t see that Yahoo is there, then it fails to become a relevant win and industry leader in the region.

  2. Kim May 21, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    I’m confused…you mentioned Niagara and Genesse counties but then you mentioned Medina, which is in Orleans. It isn’t that important, I’m just a bit confused.

    I grew up in Medina and I don’t believe that it makes very much sense for Yahoo! to be in Medina. It’s a very blue collar area, many people have little to no college education, factory jobs prevail.

  3. Chris Smith May 21, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    The area is kind of ambiguous, perhaps my lack of clarity is due to the lack of messaging from economic development teams. Supposedly, the proposed location is on Route 77 between the Pembroke exit of the 90 (Genesee County) and Medina (Orleans County).

    So, it could be in Orleans or Genesee counties depending where on Route 77 the facility is dropped.

    In Niagara County, the proposed locations are supposedly in an area north of Lockport and another in Cambria.

  4. Derek J. Punaro May 21, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    On the plus side, they could put up a big Yahoo! sign next to the Yancey’s Fancy sign, adding some extra visual punch to New York’s Artisan Cheese. Maybe even some sort of cross promotion possibilities? Flying J could be renamed Flying Y! now with free WiFi. Tie-ins with Darien Lake, like the “Yahoo! we’re-hoping-for-a Boomerang”.

    Joking aside, Yahoo! really isn’t dead yet, they just need to redirect their focus away from traditional web search to stay viable. I find their portal content to be better than Google’s, especially the financial news.

  5. Chris Smith May 21, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    Yahoo is moving into the cloud space quite deliberately, which is the underlying reason for this expansion of regional datacenters. I think they are moving away from using search as a primary revenue stream while moving into services.

    With that said, Yahoo moving in that direction certainly opens up significant opportunities for partnership with local vendors and amplifies the silliness of locating in a remote area.

  6. Prodigal-Son May 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    Geek – I’m glad you’ve posted on this. I’ve been waiting to hear what you had to say, being the IT guy.

    Stupid me, not being the IT guy, would think that proximity to the physical fiber would be a major factor in choosing a site. Cleaning energy and sych is nice, but when we have a DATA CENTER, you need a big pipe close to the biggest pipe available. I had heard that Buffalo has major fiber infrastructure, because the location between NY and TO.

    Sooooo, where is the fibre in Pembroke? HSBA was going to put a data center there, so it must be close? Could “shovel ready” sites in Buffalo not be that shovel ready because its too hard to lay new fiber in ground where steel was smelted for 100 years? I’m asking because I don’t know.

    Personally, if they only have the three sites to work in, I hope they choose the one between NF and Lockport. At least then its in the Buff-Niagara area. Ironically, if it goes to Orleans County, its in WNY, but counted against Rochester’s MSA and shows as jobs in “their” numbers. It would further reinforce nothing tech wise happens in Buffalo, but does in Rochester.

  7. Prodigal-Son May 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    Littered with typo’s . . .

    Clean Energy and HSBC, of course, I meant.

  8. Dave June 6, 2009 at 11:35 pm #

    The internal contradictions of Mr. Smith’s article need to be pointed out. On the one hand, he says economic development should be brought to urban areas to encourage “spinoff” development. Presumably, spinoff development would not – could not – occur in rural areas. But the spinoff development Mr. Smith thrists for IS sprawl. And since is would NOT occur in rural areas (as he leads us to believe), wouldn’t the anti-sprawl solution be to locate in a rural area?

    If you want to see the worst examples of urban sprawl, drive to the urban and suburban locales Mr. Smith favors. An asphalt jungle. The only green areas to see are the large tracts of land in the city that have been long abandoned and bulldozed and left as wasteland.

    And how would placing a data center in a rural area “encourage wasteful planning?” I’d be willing to bet that many of these areas have land use plans that are more equipped to handle large development than Buffalo and Niagara Falls – urban centers which have far too dysfunctional governments to engage in good urban planning – much less attract business in the first place.

    I’m sensitive to Mr. Smith’s attempts to rationalize why development should occur in his own back yard. However, Google and Yahoo are not interested in his back yard. It’s Medina, and Pembroke, and Pendleton that they like. Clearly, this realization is hard on the urban conscience.

  9. Heather N Grimmer June 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

    I would have to disagree in part with the proposed sites not in close proximity to our Urban Centers. The proposed site of Lockport is probably one of the most ideal places one could place this data center. No, it’s not right in downtown Buffalo, rather instead it’s of equal travel time from Buffalo, Niagara Falls and both the Buffalo International Airport and the Niagara Falls International Airport. This proposed location utilizes the resources from both major urban areas in the Western NY region as well as strengthens both by benefits of job opportunities, economic stabilization, and future suburban growth which in turn promotes further development in both cities and their suburbs and increased visitor interest as a whole to our region. In addition the area proposed is largely undeveloped at this point, but has the resources and infrastructure available to take on a vast and quick development as large companies such as Yahoo! seek to establish themselves within the area.

    I would also have to point out that routes to which one would travel between either city, or airport are already equipped to handle current heavy traffic flow, thus not jeopardizing the existing context of the proposed suburban area.

    I think it’s due time that Western NY embraces the interest of companies that exist within the fields of technology and sustainability. We have for some time felt the effects of downsizing factories, and urban and suburban layoffs are on the rise. Yahoo! and similar companies would serve as a resource to help sustain the economic shifts occuring from the weakening industrial era to a post-industrial revolution of technology and sustainability.


  1. HGDS & LINK | Yahoo! in Western NY « HG Design Studios LLC's Blog - June 18, 2009

    […] HGDS & LINK | Yahoo! in Western NY In Architecture and Environmental Research, General Business, HG Design Studios, LLC on 2009/06/18 at 5:58 pm […]

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