Fiber optic cable.

First data center in Thumb planned by Frankenmuth tech company

CARO —Frankenmuth-based Air Advantage is considering Caro or Bad Axe for a new data center that will be part of the company’s efforts to build out its high speed Internet network in Michigan’s Thumb region – and create new jobs and incentives for businesses to relocate to the area.

Officials from Air Advantage talked about expansion plans that would bring more tech – and jobs – to the area during the Tuscola County Economic Development Corp. board meeting Tuesday.

Jim Lang, general manager, Air Advantage, said there’s a need for a data center in the region and “that this is something that is going to be launched and we’re really excited about that.”

“In the Thumb, the closest data center we have is Saginaw and then the next one is Flint,” Lang said.

Lang told The Advertiser that he expects a location and other details – such as project size and number of jobs expected to be created – to be solidified and announced within the next month.

Steven Erickson, executive director, Tuscola County Economic Development Corp., said he is working with Air Advantage to find the right location for its data center.

Data centers generally are super high-tech and highly secured facilities containing a group of networked computers that store and/or disseminate data for customers. Lang said the center will offer services such as disaster recovery, file storage and retrieval, web hosting, and “all of these things you would expect from a data center.”

Erickson said companies considering relocating or expanding to the area always want to know about what kind of technology options are available.

“It’s good to not only attract high-tech industry into the Thumb, but also good because we have a lot of people working out of their homes,” Erickson said. “It’s a very, very positive thing for Tuscola County.”

Lang said Air Advantage is working with some “very big, worldwide, recognizable carriers to potentially partner with us.” He added that the company is talking with several other potential partners in Tuscola County.

“The data center is logical and makes sense for us because we own a ton of fiber in the Thumb area,” Lang said. “And at the end of the day, it’s going to create jobs. It’s going to bring the latest high-tech to the Thumb.”

Lang said Air Advantage – founded in 2002 – has built its business on providing high-speed Internet to the area and that the data center would be its first.

“The data center we want to build is intended for small- to medium-sized businesses. That’s ideal for what we have up here,” Lang said.

Lang said a number of certifications must be acquired for Air Advantage to open a data center, which would serves customers such as those in the medical industry.

“We haven’t 100 percent selected…is it going to be Bad Axe? Is it going to be Caro?” Lang said. “Where exactly is it going to be?”

Air Advantage was founded in 2002 by Scott Zimmer with the goal of providing high-speed Internet to rural communities mostly within the Thumb region.

The company currently provides service to about 7,000 customers in the region and several hundred business customers from its fiber network.

Lang said residential subscribers are mainly served by wireless radio technology as opposed to telephone or cable TV wires.

Air Advantage has more than 40 employees.

“Internet access and data access is absolutely mission critical for our professional lives and our personal lives,” Lang said.

While Air Advantage finalizes plans, House Bill 5075 – introduced last November by Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia – is winding its way through the Michigan Legislature.

The bill is intended to grant tax breaks to data centers. The bill remains in committee.

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