September 28, 2009 By Hilton Collins
The last few years have been rough for Wayne County, Mich., on the economic front. In June, County Executive Robert Ficano proposed about 500 layoffs in his 2009-2010 budget because of a looming $105 million shortfall -- obviously bad news for county employees.
The county is home to Detroit, the famous pillar of the American auto industry. According to a study by the Center for Automotive Research, auto-related jobs accounted for one out of every 10 U.S. jobs in 2003. Two large domestic automakers have since gone bankrupt. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection in June, and President Barack Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection in April so the company could merge with Italian automaker Fiat.
"The bottom line is: There is no money. Our revenue comes from taxes. People are moving out, and businesses are folding. There's no money," said Tahir Kazmi, the county's CIO.
Something had to be done to keep business in the region and improve the economy. Wayne County leaders had the foresight to partner with the private sector in an endeavor to attract new business and lighten the local government's IT burden.
"We were thinking, 'What can we do here that will lead into at least a starting point for a technology hub?'" Kazmi said.
Wayne County began working in 2008 with Secure-24, a company that provides managed hosting services, to enhance the area's technology infrastructure. The partnership resulted in the Technology Resource Center, a data center located within the county in Plymouth, Mich. It's designed to handle the gamut of IT resources for willing customers -- disaster recovery, business continuity, data storage and application housing. In fact, Wayne County plans to house all county services inside the data center and will reach out to other governments and private-sector companies so they can do the same. Secure-24 announced the data center's opening in spring 2009.
"We partnered with Wayne County in providing what we refer to as critical-application hosting services, which means that we're running some of the more important government-focused ERPs for them," said Matt Wenzler, Secure-24's global sales and marketing team leader.
These applications are crucial to county business. "If they go down for a few minutes, it has a significant impact on the county's ability to continue to run and process business."
The relationship between Secure-24 and Wayne County began in summer 2008. The two set the goal of building a state-of-the-art shared Tier 4 data center in Michigan. Tier 4 facilities don't have to shut down for maintenance because they have multiple power and distribution paths. Secure-24 invested an initial $5 million in the project and expects the total investment to exceed $10 million over several years.
"We began developing our relationship with the county, specifically with their CIO Tahir Kazmi, and then also other members of the management team and executive team -- with the county in coming up with a concept and bringing it to fruition," Wenzler said. The public-private partnership between the county and Secure-24 was born.
The data center is housed in a 20,000-square-foot facility that's built for action. It's a one-story concrete and steel building that can handle external stressors, but likely won't have to. Michigan isn't prone to hurricanes, wildfires or earthquakes. The facility also has a 24-inch raised floor that delivers conditioned air from below and 28-foot-high ceilings with air returns that ensure a homogeneous temperature.
The plan is for cities and other government jurisdictions
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.