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Data campus will help students, state

By Suzanne Seldes

Indian River State College (IRSC) plans to establish a dedicated, fully operational data campus in Okeechobee County, positioning the county at the epicenter of the state’s data center capacity.

The data campus, named Okee-One, is the primary focus of economic revitalization for the former Okeechobee “School for Boys” site. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB1603 transferring ownership of the 205-acre parcel to the college in June. The site is well-positioned adjacent to data superhighways; the inland placement offers natural protection from coastal storm threats.

“Between access to dense fiber, natural gas and land availability for solar backup and an existing water reclamation facility for cooling, the possibility of establishing the nation’s most sustainable data campus here in Okeechobee is within reach,” shares IRSC Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Michael Hageloh.

Worldwide, technological advances are increasing the demand for data centers. Okee-One will house many types of data centers in a lifestyle campus environment.  According to a June 27, 2023, article in The New York Times, “the need for data centers has rapidly increased, fueled by changing work habits during the pandemic and the growth of cloud-based technologies.”

The data campus will serve as a learning lab for IRSC students and a stable employment base for its graduates and other residents from Okeechobee and surrounding communities. The project would include servers, storage, network gear, racks, power distribution systems, transformers, chillers and generators. A skilled workforce to support an infrastructure that runs 24/7 will require a wide range of trained professionals in areas such as information technology and cybersecurity, electronics engineering technology, electrical power technology, HVAC, plumbing and physical security.

IRSC received universal support from its legislative delegation and DeSantis.

Collaboration with the Okeechobee community and a strategic partnership with the South Florida Water Management District enhanced the effort.

“Our governmental leaders and community partners avidly share our vision to advance economic uplift in the area, grow employment opportunities and serve as the foreground for unique IRSC education and training programs in one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, and for that, we are grateful,” continues Hageloh.

Once a cultural assessment of the land is complete, IRSC intends to move with velocity to bring the data campus to fruition.

“This undertaking underscores IRSC’s role as a leader in education and innovation and its mission to transform lives,” said Hageloh.

This article originally appeared here.

Suzanne Seldes

is associate vice president of communications at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida.