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Rendering courtesy of ComEd

Illinois, long known for its leading role in supplying vital goods and commodities for America, is also a leading player in the 21st century’s most valuable resource: data. Four of the largest data center campuses in America are being built in Illinois right now, according to Conway Global’s 2023-24 Investment Guide (p. 47).

In terms of physical footprint, Chicago is tied with Dallas as the third-largest data center hotspot in the U.S., with some 4.8 million square feet. Moreover, there is another 2.2 million square feet of construction in Illinois’ data center pipeline, and only more growth forecast in the future. A report from Cushman & Wakefield earlier this year ranked Chicago as tied for the fourth-largest data center market in the world.

Boosted by incentives

The boom is driven in part thanks to Illinois’ 2019 data center incentive program, which offers tax exemptions from state and local sales for companies that invest at least $250 million in a data center as well as create 20 new jobs over a five-year period. Data center projects may also be eligible for an additional tax credit equal to 20% of wages for construction workers that build data centers in certain qualifying zones.

“Thanks to these efforts and our reputation as a global tech hub, we have 15 operating data centers investing more than $4.6 billion in our communities – all while creating thousands of jobs,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

Data centers provide infrastructure for a variety of online services, including cloud storage, social media, and artificial intelligence. These centers contain rows upon rows of powerful servers and usually require large amounts of electricity and square footage to house the computers, storage, and network equipment.

Repurposing idle office space

In addition to connectivity and permanent jobs created by the data center, these facilities also create construction jobs as former spaces find renewed life as data centers. Many former corporate campuses that are no longer in use due to the rise of remote work are proving to be perfect locations for new data centers, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.

This has created a development explosion, with many dormant corporate spaces becoming revitalized online infrastructure hubs. Some of the latest potential data center revamps planned over the next few years include the former Sears corporate campus in Hoffman Estate and the former United Airlines campus in Mount Prospect.

Image courtesy of ComEd

Powered by sustainable electricity

Large data centers need a lot of electricity, and the state’s incentive program requires them to be carbon neutral. Thankfully, Illinois, which is the first Midwest state to set a goal of reaching 100% renewable power by 2050, features plenty of sustainable energy solutions. ComEd, one of America’s largest power utilities, provides access to a modern grid that meets all the needs of a robust data center, including demand for clean energy.

As the world’s demand for data continues to grow, Illinois is ripe with opportunity to support the data center boom. To learn more, contact us here.