by Tara Bozick
EcomNets won’t manufacture green computers in Danville, but its Southern Virginia site instead will help the company attract clients for data storage and management.
Two years ago, Herndon-based EcomNets announced plans to use a 22,000-square-foot building in Airside Industrial Park to produce energy-efficient Verdio PC computers, creating 160 jobs. Its new strategy is to create a data center that would generate 50 jobs over the next two years.
EcomNets shifted its focus when the recent dominance of tablets, specifically Apple’s iPad, changed market demand for small computers like the Verdio, says founder and CEO Raj Kosuri. Meanwhile, the proliferation of smartphones intensified Internet usage and demand for storing information. “Danville became the core of our strategy,” Kosuri says.
The Danville location lies midway between the company’s Washington-area clients and prospective customers in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. EcomNets expects the Danville center to be able to send data quickly because of its connection to the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative’s fiber-optic infrastructure.
Kosuri projects leasing space to 15 organizations with secure-storage needs, such as health-care, finance and government customers, by the end of the year.
Once EcomNets attracts a larger client, like a state agency, Danville general manager Phillip Wright says it plans to build an adjacent 50,000-square-foot facility, which could be completed in 2015.
The company continues to market the Verdio to customers like schools, libraries and offices that would benefit from desktop virtualization (replicating server-stored software on multiple desktops). The Danville facility would assemble PCs as they’re ordered.
City leaders hope EcomNets’ presence will help attract other data centers and high-tech jobs to transform the region’s economy. The loss of textile manufacturing left the Danville region with the highest unemployment among of the state’s metropolitan areas.
More than 300 residents have submitted job applications at EcomNets. This year, 20 employees will be needed for customer service, sales and tech support, and future software quality assurance testing.
The capital-intensive nature of data centers would help local tax revenue as EcomNets would refresh servers and equipment every three to five years. So far, the company has invested $1.9 million and is reserving $500,000 committed by the Virginia Tobacco Commission for labor and employee training.
If EcomNets is successful and word spreads about the city’s new supercomputer, a data cluster could develop in Danville, says Danville City Manager Joe King.
“Danville can realistically anticipate becoming the information technology center for small, entrepreneurial businesses that will drive the economic recovery of the nation,” King says.
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