Northern Data North American headquarters
The German company Northern Data will build its North American headquarters at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma. (Provided)

The German tech company Northern Data will be investing about $270 million to establish a 100-acre North American headquarters at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma.

Company executives, Secretary of Commerce Scott Mueller and Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the development this morning at the State Capitol. Within 24 months, Northern Data is expected to establish about 150 jobs and have its data centers online at the industrial park, which has already been home to Google data centers for more than a decade.

“We see these innovative data centers as the cornerstone of our long-term strategy,” Northern Data CEO Aroosh Thillainathan said in a press release. “Our campus design is going beyond mining, extending to cloud services and even establishing a research lab dedicated to the discovery of future data processing applications. In short, this new alliance promises to be mutually beneficial to both Northern Data and its strategic partners in Oklahoma for years to come.”

Stitt said the investment will “bring high-paying jobs to Oklahoma.”

“We are so excited to have you in Oklahoma. (…) We have had an international strategy for a while. I told Oklahomans when I ran that I wanted to take Oklahoma to the world and bring the world back to Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “When we are talking to international companies looking to locate in the United States, there is no better state in the country, for a number of reasons.”

Mueller, who has served in Stitt’s cabinet for about 14 months, said he has known Northern Data President Christopher Yoshida for nearly a decade. Yoshida was initially considering North Dakota for the company’s North American headquarters, but Mueller persuaded him to visit Oklahoma. After several Zoom meetings and “five or six” visits, the company was ready to establish its new headquarters at the MidAmerica Industrial Park.

During a press conference, Thillainathan provided an overview of his company, which will nearly double in size and will more than double in terms of its power capacity with the new project.

“When we started the company in 2013 (…) we used excess computer capacity to buy encrypted currency,” he said.

Since then, the company has developed additional blockchain technology, cloud computing services and is developing artificial intelligence computing. The company supports 22,500 Bitcoin miners.

“Northern Data has been offered no state incentives. I’m not aware of any local incentives, and I’m 90-plus percent sure there aren’t any,” Mueller said. “There could be something I’m not aware of, but I don’t think so.”

Mueller said that “in a perfect world” Oklahoma would be able to land a lot of major investments without additional incentive programs.

“In some instances, that will be realistic. In some instances, it won’t,” he said, noting that Northern Data could be eligible for the state’s Quality Jobs Act program. “When they begin to hire, they very likely will qualify for Quality Jobs (Act incentives), but it has so far played no factor in their decision.”

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GRDA ‘actively working’ to provide even more power

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a press conference announcing the development of Northern Data’s new North American headquarters Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Tres Savage)

One selling point of the MidAmerica Industrial Park is its ability to provide low-cost electricity to tenants via the Grand River Dam Authority, Oklahoma’s state-owned power utility that serves businesses and municipalities in northeast Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Northern Data and GRDA leaders said their business agreement involves purchasing up to 250 megawatts of electricity to operate the data center complex. That amount of power could provide electricity to the equivalent of about 225,000 homes.

“This partnership with Northern Data is an enormous win for us and the state of Oklahoma,” GRDA CEO Dan Sullivan said in the company’s press release. “GRDA is committed to mobilizing our substantial resources and delivering 250 megawatts to Northern Data for scaling their high-quality data centers that have made a lasting impression on us until the end of 2024. We are actively working to ensure GRDA is ready to deliver significantly more power within the next five years to help Northern Data in meeting its current and future growth projections.”

Sullivan’s statement that GRDA is “actively working” to be able “to deliver significantly more power” to Northern Data harkens back to the 2021 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, during which lawmakers debated whether to increase GRDA’s bonding capacity by another $1.39 billion for future development of its electricity assets and other community projects. Last year, Sullivan told legislators that GRDA was involved in several commercial development discussions that involved non-disclosure agreements and the potential to snag significant private investments in the state.

Stitt and Mueller said GRDA’s ability to provide low-cost electricity was key to landing Northern Data in Oklahoma.

Nathan Reese, GRDA executive vice president, said the upcoming effort to increase the state utility’s electricity capacity for Northern Data and other commercial customers may not be tied to increasing GRDA’s bonding capacity.

“It certainly could produce the need for that result. As we continue to grow on all different fronts — whether that’s at MidAmerica or in some of our municipal customer communities — there’s going to be a growing need obviously for some capital investment in our system, both on the transmission and on the generation side of things,” Reese said.

In the future, he said GRDA’s plans for “additional base-load generation could come from a variety of sources.”

“We do have some plans to renovate some existing hydro-power units to make them more efficient,” Reese said. “I think that probably the next step for us is a solar project. That is on the near horizon. With that may or may not come some type of battery attached to that as well.”

Background about Northern Data

Founded in 2013, Northern Data already operates 10 data centers globally and identifies as a business-to-business technology company that sells high-performance computing infrastructure.

The company’s stock is trading for around 43 euros. In October, the company saw its stock temporarily dip after a German regulator filed a complaint alleging market manipulation.