Contact Us

'Slow That Train': Arizona Data Center Hub Wants To Curb Industry's Influx

The Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona, has emerged as a data center development hotbed, but local officials want to slow the industry’s rapid growth in the city. 

Mesa, Arizona

Some of the city’s top officials are increasingly concerned that data centers are crowding out development from other industries that would provide more jobs on the city’s dwindling supply of industrial land, The Mesa Tribune reports. It is a sentiment that is being repeated by officials ranging from the mayor to the city’s economic development chief, who says his department is looking for ways to “slow that train down” when it comes to the influx of new data centers. 

“Just know [data center development] is something that we’re not actively recruiting,” Mesa Economic Development Director William Jabjiniak said at a meeting of the city's Economic Development Advisory Board last week, according to the Mesa Tribune. “It’s all about jobs.” 

Mesa remains a primary digital infrastructure hub within the rapidly ascending Phoenix data center market. Major tech companies and third-party data center providers have continued to propose major projects in the city, drawn by the availability of developable land and hundreds of megawatts of power. 

Last week, Google announced the start of construction on the first phase of its $600M, 167-acre data center campus in the city, a project that received approval in 2019. Third-party providers Novva Data Centers and EdgeConneX also unveiled plans for campuses in Mesa earlier this month, with EdgeCore and Edged Energy advancing projects since the start of the year. 

There are more than 15 new data center projects looking to enter the development pipeline in Mesa, The Mesa Tribune reported, citing the number of power studies requested from the local utility. 

But as the data center boom continues, the city’s leadership is expressing growing concern about the relatively small number of permanent jobs the industry creates. It is a concern that has long plagued the data center industry, in which campuses measuring millions of square feet typically result in far fewer jobs than a comparably sized factory or other industrial facility.  

“Moving forward, we need to think in terms of how many jobs and what quality of jobs are we getting in Mesa per square foot of space used, per acre-foot of water used, per megawatt of power that’s going to be drawn, and try to increase our numbers,” City Council Member Scott Somers said at a recent meeting, according to the Tribune. 

With finite developable industrial land remaining in the city, prominent voices in city government are pointing to manufacturing as a preferable alternative to data centers, primarily due to the number of jobs these facilities would create. Officials have specifically cited automotive and medical device manufacturing as targets. Many also want the city to play a role in the semiconductor supply chain as the Phoenix area becomes a hub for chip fabrication. 

“We are blessed that we’ve been so attractive to data centers for the last several years, but I think … we’re more interested now in advanced manufacturing,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said, according to the Tribune. 

While these concerns have thus far fallen short of outright opposition to specific projects, local pushback to data centers is a growing concern for developers across a number of major markets. This trend has emerged most acutely in Virginia, where acrimony over data center projects has sparked protests and lawsuits and helped turn local elections

Mesa itself has a history of organized opposition to data centers in the city, much of it driven by concerns over their massive water use as the region faced unprecedented drought. Now, most of the facilities under development in the city claim to use waterless cooling systems, according to the Tribune. 

Related Topics: Mesa, Arizona, Mesa Arizona