Midlothian: The Rural North Texas Town That Wooed Google
If you search for Midlothian, Texas, on Google, 9 million hits appear, while the word "Dallas" generates about a billion more results.
Dallas may get more Google hits, but Midlothian led the North Texas pack in one notable Google search this past year: the tech giant’s search for land to build a mega data center in North Texas.
Google is acting as pioneer. Midlothian Economic Development President and CEO Larry Barnett said this is the first data center built on the south side of the DFW Metroplex.
Midlothian, about 25 miles south of Dallas, is a small town of 38,000 people, but the numbers behind Google’s investment are big. Its data center will sit on 375 acres. Google has committed $600M toward building out the site and offered $100K in grant money to support Midlothian Independent School District’s local STEM programs.
How did this small rural town end up on Google’s data center list?
Beneath the quiet surface, the makings of a major technology or data center hub are simmering. Midlothian has the people, the land, the structure, the highways and the free trade zones to compete, making it an obvious, if less high-profile, choice, according to Barnett.
“Google searches for areas that can meet their needs. And, in addition to ideal infrastructure, Midlothian demonstrates their business-friendly attitude when working with prospective companies,” Barnett said.
Midlothian offers a median household income of roughly $85K per year, a workforce that is classified as 65% white collar (or professional services) and a young median age of 36, according to Midlothian EDC data. Twenty-three percent of Midlothian residents have a bachelor's degree, compared to the Texas average of 19.2%, according to the EDC.
The city’s available workforce, access to Dallas and focus on developing a solid school system forced Google to take notice.
“I anticipate when Google was focused on site selection, they were not only looking at land availability and the basis and ability to expand, but also labor availability and the right amount of highly educated professionals within close proximity to the site. I think it says a lot of positive things about Midlothian,” Nuveen Real Estate Managing Director and head of industrial Graydon Bouchillon said.
Bouchillon pointed out one factor that may have had a particular impact: “[Midlothian] has made a lot of investment in healthcare and STEM over the last several years.”
Methodist Health System last year announced plans to build a 190K SF full-service acute care hospital and a 45K SF medical office building west of U.S. 287 in Midlothian. The facility allows the city to meet the needs of current residents and accounts for future growth.
The hospital is expected to have a direct economic impact on the area.
While Google is a huge feather in Midlothian's cap, the city’s mayor, Richard Reno, said data centers are generally self-contained structures, so the impact of Google economically may not be as direct.
“We have a hospital going in right now, and it will generate a lot of other commercial endeavors that will springboard off of it,” Reno said. “I don’t have that expectation of Google itself, but we do plan on attracting more technology companies just because we have Google and will leverage off of that.”
And there is opportunity for a lot of growth, since Midlothian is just now entering the data center market, and its industrial sector is also still finding its foothold.
“Midlothian as an industrial market is still in what I would characterize as the nascent stages,” Bouchillon said.
Midlothian has two industrial districts — Railport Business Park and Midlothian Business Park. The city also offers Foreign-Trade subzone locations, according to the EDC.
When you bring Google’s name into the mix, the city now has extra cachet to draw other companies.
“For the same reasons Google chose Midlothian, other data center companies will consider our community,” Barnett said. “The diversity of our workforce skills makes Midlothian a great choice for technology related companies, as well as manufacturing and distribution.”
The Google name itself is an economic driver, experts said.
“When we talk about highly active kind of top-tier industrial submarkets, Midlothian historically hasn’t been included on the list,” Bouchillon said. “I certainly think the introduction of a marquee name like Google and this level of a data center investment stands to put Midlothian on the map on a go forward basis.”