Regional Chamber’s Bill Konyha supports data center bill
By Lisa Esquivel Long | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
What’s good for Hammond’s proposed $40 million data center could benefit other regions of the state, including northeast Indiana.
Bill Konyha, president & CEO of the Fort Wayne-based Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, testified Feb. 5 in the House Ways and Means Committee in Indianapolis in support of House Bill 1405, which would make data centers exempt from certain taxes.
”Technology is an increasing sector,” Konyha told Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.
The state suddenly has a driver for making itself more welcoming to data centers, he said. The bill would help Hammond grow its $40 million, 105,000-square-foot project into a projected $200 million campus with 400,000 square feet.
Large-scale data centers must replace equipment every 6 or 7 years, an extremely expensive endeavor, which makes the state interested in eliminating the 7 percent sales for them. The bill would also allow a county or municipal fiscal body to designate an area where property taxes would be exempt for a data center for up to 20 years.
Data centers have several key components that make them attractive, including providing a 21-century workforce and a creative business environment, Konyha said. However, it’s not the centers themselves that draw the most jobs. Secondary businesses — suppliers, service providers and vendors —“is where the jobs are,” Konyha said.
Fort Wayne, the state’s second largest city, itself might not be a draw for large-scale data centers. Hammond has the benefit of being close to Chicago, while Fort Wayne is much farther from the nearest large city of Toledo, Ohio, which has a metropolitan population of 608,145. However, according to an independent study that Konyha read, Indiana has grown more rapidly in technology than Chicago has in recent years, he said.
The bill has support from the Indianapolis-based Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Economic Development Association, as well as organized labor and the northwest and south-central regions, according to Konyha.