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[August 09, 2014]
Think Loud project trying for piece of growing high-tech infrastructure market [York Daily Record, Pa. :: ]
(York Daily Record (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 10--Think Loud Development's multi-million dollar investment in high-tech infrastructure could earn it a piece of what experts say is a multi-billion dollar business.
Already, it has garnered attention locally because of a $5 million state grant from Gov. Tom Corbett and because Think Loud, which includes members of the rock band Live, has invested money in buying and redeveloping part of York's northeast neighborhood for the expansion of its business.
If the project succeeds, it could also benefit the county by bringing tax revenue, high paying tech jobs and attention to a section of the city that has not been part of other economic development.
After announcing it would add fiber-optics and data storage to its business model in 2013, the company began developing the infrastructure it will need if it is to meet two major desires of a society becoming increasingly reliant on the web for everything from staying in touch to making a living.
Think Loud's four data centers -- scheduled to be built throughout Pennsylvania and offering off-site, secure data storage -- would tap into a market for cloud storage that by 2019 is expected to be worth more than $56 billion, according to a report by the research firm Markets and Markets.
Internet industry studies also indicate a call for faster internet and reliable connections. Updating the copper wiring now used by many telecom companies to transmit wireless network signals with fiber-optic data lines -- such as the 400-mile line from New York City to northern Virginia that Think Loud has begun work on -- helps to meet that demand, experts say.
And as the company nears the completion of its 210 York St. headquarters, Masha Zager, editor of "Broadband Communities Magazine," said Think Loud is entering the data field on the cusp of what is setting up to be a boom period for fiber network development.
However, she said, it's also an industry that requires a lot of money up front for a return that is often years in the making.
What is United Fiber and Data selling? Bill Hynes, CEO of Think Loud Development, did not comment for this story on the services his company will provide, but the website of United Fiber and Data -- the high-tech arm of Think Loud's multiple business holdings -- shows that the venture plans to cater to a variety of fields, such as health care, financial and government institutions.
A company official said previously that it will lay a fiber cable network along existing telephone lines. According to United Fiber and Data's website, it will build what's known as a Fiber-To-The-Tower network, selling high speed connections to area businesses.
Doctors can communicate in real-time with administrators who are at another site, hospitals can digitize and save patient records and investors can transfer information in "nanoseconds" through the fiber and storage network offered by United Fiber and Data, its website says.
But the lines must be extended to homes in order for ultra high-speed services to be delivered residentially. Zager said other Internet and wireless carriers could link to the network if it's built to accommodate that, and Think Loud's website mentions "solutions" for wireless carriers.
Driven by a revived economy, lower costs and the success of the Google Fiber project -- which built three tech villages with ultra high-speed access in three U.S. cities -- she said there has been more and more interest from large telephone and cable companies in extending their fiber holdings.
Coupled with the need for faster Internet is the need for security -- also a major selling point for United Fiber and Data, according to its website.
Businesses are turning to analytics to help them make a profit, and as a result, will need an off-site, secure location to store their data, Zager said.
United Fiber and Data plans to build its infrastructure away from major East Coast corridors, such as the I-95 corridor, "avoiding all major metropolitan blast zones, terrorist targets and natural disaster zones," its website says.
While other fiber lines already run along the East Coast, there is a demand for the type of "redundant" pathway United Fiber and Data is building, Zager said.
"Truly redundant network paths and connections are very important to many businesses for the purpose of risk avoidance or disaster recovery," she said. "Often, businesses pay for backup connections only to find that the backup essentially duplicates the main connection, and that if one goes down, the other one does, too." What impact will the project have on York? From distribution to warehousing to corporate offices, one of the most important things that businesses look for when relocating is access to broadband and high-speed Internet, said Blanda Nace, senior manager of economic development for the York County Economic Alliance.
"Such a large pipeline of information," like the line Think Loud is building, "could really be huge for development throughout the entire region," Nace said.
More cities are expanding their ultra-high-speed networks through municipal and private investment, and those that don't risk losing their competitive advantage, said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy.
As mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., Richard helped to bring a Fiber-To-The-Home network to his city, allowing for residential access, an important next step that he said York should seek to develop on the backbone of the business-centric infrastructure Think Loud is building.
For areas with great broadband access, it "becomes a differentiator for companies to locate there," Richard said. "Many cities don't realize they aren't put on the list for expansion because their broadband is so bad.
"You have to have the infrastructure to benefit from some of the new technologies," he added.
With a 13.8-mile loop in New York City already online, Think Loud "solidified numerous multi-year agreements prior to the construction of the line being complete," according to its business plan. The business plan also shows that the company is eyeing a start date this year for its $40 million York data center -- a project that would generate tax revenue and bring more than 100 high-paying jobs to the city, officials have said.
When prospective companies consider moving their businesses to York County, Nace said the area's sales pitch includes its transportation networks, like Interstate 83 and Route 30, and they also tell them about Think Loud's project.
"Look back 100 years where people wanted to be near electricity," Nace said. High-speed Internet is now that same type of valuable resource, he said.
The York Daily Record/Sunday News recently acquired a copy of Think Loud Development's business plan for the United Fiber and Data project through its state grant application.
The plan reads: "Making an investment in IT infrastructure, UFD will drive high-quality job growth and lay the foundation for sustainable, viable economic development. Once this project is complete, it will yield over 400 new jobs in the Commonwealth and over $2 billion in state tax revenue over a 30-year term." Other things of note include: Jobs: The plan indicates the project will create an additional 214 jobs for support and supplier industries, as well as 70 non-permanent construction jobs. The company expects to create 400 permanent full-time jobs with a median salary of $65,000.
State revenue: Within one year after it's completed, the project expects to create $10,076,690 in state tax revenue through payroll, sales, corporate and other taxes.
Cash flow: Preliminary projections included in the RACP grant business plan shows that UFD expects to have a cash inflow of $69.4 million by year four.
Property: They own eight parcels in the 200 block of East York Street.
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