By aiming to create a LEED-certified facility funded by private investors, Tech Vault was embraced as Vermont's first commercial-grade, LEED-certified data center.
By Jay Fayette
December 23, 2011
We’re Vermonters. Here in New England, our state culture upholds the highest standards in energy efficiency and eco-responsibility. So when my partner and I set out to build the state’s first commercial-grade, LEED-certified, carrier-neutral data center and co-location facility, we knew it would have to be built the Vermont way.
That, in a nutshell, is my advice to any channel pro looking to invest in a data center: Do business in accordance with what you know. Use your instincts and integrity as your guide and remain steadfast with your business mission and vision.
Our company, Tech Group Inc., has been an established IT service provider in the state for years. We supply our SMB clients with network design, installation, security, managed services, data backup, and systems renewal tracking … really the full gamut. The one thing we didn’t offer that many of our customers needed was a data center and co-location facility. It was a natural for us to pursue a next-generation facility that took advantage of the geography and climate of Vermont. Because we’re native to the state, we saw it as the responsible thing to do.
We began by doing a lot of research about energy efficiency and design. We read whatever we could find. We listened to the stories of other IT service providers. Most important, we reached out to key partners. Our first critical connections were with APC and Schneider Electric. We met with Tyler Frick, APC’s district manager, who kick-started our project by putting us in touch with data center design firm Leading Edge Design Group of Hanover, N.H.
We, in turn, reached out to Efficiency Vermont, a quasi-private/state organization that serves as Vermont’s energy code gatekeeper. Together, our group of experts pulled together precise plans for an energy-efficient data center that would live up to our standards. But then, in 2008, the economy collapsed.
MAKING FAIR DEALS
In hindsight, it couldn’t have worked out better. We managed to build a $2 million, state-of-the-art, energy-efficient data center co-lo without involving any big commercial banks. (What could be more Vermont than that?!) At the time, however, things were not so rosy.
We had completed all our procurement, design, and architectural plans, and we were well down the road in talks with multiple banks. We brazenly locked down the available commercial space in our building, asking that our landlord, Investors Corp. of Vermont (ICV), hold off from renting it to anyone else.
The financial meltdown changed everything. In just a matter of days, the banking world was tipped on its head and the next thing we knew, all avenues of commercial lending for our project were closed to us. Because we had held our landlord off from renting the available space in our building for so long, ICV CEO Paul Sprayregen was eager to hear about our progress. Without any songs to sing about potential lenders, I approached Sprayregen directly, hat in hand, with a final request.
We worked hard with ICV to create a sound opportunity that included a 20-year lease and an equity position in the data center portion of our business in exchange for financing and building our project. After deliberation, Sprayregen and his company agreed. Embodying the spirit of Vermont, our project came down to a handshake and a pre-existing relationship with a private investor. In the spring of 2010, we broke ground on the data center. The doors opened in September of the same year.
DOING BUSINESS AS YOU KNOW IT
When fellow channel pros ask me how we managed to make the first commercial-grade data center in Vermont, I shrug and say, “We’re Vermonters; it’s what we do.” What I really mean is that the integral characteristics of our business dealings reflected our own culture. By making eye contact and shaking hands with our landlord, and by maintaining high standards for energy efficiency, we were able to finance Vermont’s first LEED Silver facility (Gold is coming!).
I suggest all IT service providers do business that way—stick to your principles, maintain your integrity, and value your relationships.
Profile: Jay Fayette, Principal and Vice President, Tech Group Inc. and Tech Vault Inc.
Location: South Burlington, Vt.
Established: Tech Group, 2006; Tech Vault, 2010
Number of employees: Tech Group, 14; Tech Vault, zero—the facility is fully managed by Tech Group Inc.
Websites: www.techvault.net and www.tgvt.net
Company focus: To manage New England’s first LEED-certified data center to the highest level of energy efficiency, without compromising capacity, uptime, or availability for our customers
Favorite part of my job: Being an entrepreneur
Least favorite part: Losing
Something people would be surprised to know about me: In 1974, at the age of 15, I played doubles tennis for 45 hours straight with three of my high school buddies, breaking the record in the then-current Guinness Book of World Records.