State Sen. Judy Warnick’s visit to the Moses Lake Data Center on Friday was both informative and enlightening.
Warnick, who represents the 13th District from Easton and Cle Elum to Moses Lake and Davenport, is quick to say the economy is at the forefront of everyone’s minds and that it is important state government focus on the creation of jobs and encouraging businesses to stay or move to Washington.
“We need to ease regulations on employers and provide a continuing labor force for important industries,” she said.
“We need to continue to advocate for better prioritization of capital projects and creating jobs and maintaining vital infrastructure should be priority focus.” With that in mind, Friday’s fact-finding mission was twofold. Moses Lake Data Center president Ryan Oster was able to outline his operation here in the Port of Moses Lake. The Moses Lake Data Center is a new business that had trouble getting traditional financing and was actually funded with capital made available for economic development in a unique partnership with Washington state government.
Sen. Warnick also had the opportunity to discuss non-traditional financing options with Craft3 senior vice president Arnie Gunderson. Craft3 is a nonprofit financial institution that makes loans to businesses that have trouble accessing traditional financing. Craft3 has a growing presence in central and eastern Washington, with an office opening in Walla Walla later this year, and an office in Spokane. It currently has an estimated $180 million under management in Oregon and Washington.
“I had gone through two previous banks without much success. We get into the process (with Craft3) and within six months we were able to make this dream a reality,” said Oster. “I literally went eight months with a legitimate, real good business plan, and was getting nowhere. Now I get to invest in the community and hire more people and take this to the next level.”
Said Gunderson, “Part of what we do is provide the capital, but we help guide them through the process,” he said. “We have a partnership with the state which allows us to take a small business initiative. They gave us a grant for about $9 million dollars and we turned it into a revolving loan fund. That capital is actually what funded this facility. We’ve since expanded it to do about $50 million in some of the more energy-focused lending for commerce.” Craft3 also handled the financial backing for AstaReal Technologies.
When AstaReal’s Sweden facility could no longer match the demand for astaxanthin, it expanded operations to the United States and opened its manufacturing facility in Moses Lake, bringing in 50 jobs. Craft3 provided AstaReal Technologies with a State Small Business Credit Initiative loan. AstaReal secured financing for construction of the $18 million phase 1 project. There are two main economic drivers on the Moses Lake Data Center, Oster said, power for the servers and how the building is cooled. Powering the servers as well as running air conditioning is a financial stress they couldn’t afford.
“We went with the fresh air intake system, where you have clean, cool air coming through and creating a wind tunnel to force the air out the back end turned out to be a super efficient system for keeping the environment stable inside,” Oster said. “It’s big in that it’s an effective way to cool the building without using excessive power. It’s a green alternative data center operation.”