Steve Bruere spends a fair amount of time contemplating dirt and its many uses. The president of Peoples Co. has built the company from a small seller of farmland to a multi-headed enterprise that manages farms, develops residential properties, and advises investors, to name a few functions.
Little wonder then that he has paid close attention to the state's growing reputation as a data center darling.
With the announcement Tuesday that Facebook Inc. would build a $300 million data center in Altoona, with more build out possible, you can't blame Bruere for wondering "why not Van Meter?"
Bruere has helped assemble a 200-acre tract of farmland east of the Dallas County community of 1,016 people that his Diligent Development Group LLC is marketing as a prime piece of data center land.
Like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, LightEdge Solutions and Team Technologies, Bruere believes that Iowa really is a top landing spot for data centers, whose owners are intrigued by cheap utility rates and its distance from earthquake epicenters.
He expects more companies to find their way to Iowa.
"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," Bruere said.
Not surprisingly, Bruere believes his land really was a better fit for Facebook than the Altoona parcel, which was originally slated for residential development.
The land, which will be annexed into Van Meter in the next few months, has three fiber optic lines running through or near it, and it is a stone's throw from a MidAmerican Energy Co. substation. The property is a little more than three miles south of Interstate 80 and nearly nine miles west of Interstate 35 off of Dallas County Highway F 90.
"The Van Meter site is every bit as good as the Altoona location, if not better," Bruere said.
The property is in the process of being certified as shovel ready under an Iowa Economic Development Authority program that was launched last year to locate development properties.
Read a Business Record story about the Shovel Ready program
Van Meter City Administrator Jake Anderson said a design is in the works to layout infrastructure improvements that would include the construction of water and sewer lines and streets. He estimates those costs at about $8 million.
Van Meter can afford the cost of the design work, which he said has to amount to more than a "cocktail napkin sketch," but not the construction of infrastructure.
Anderson and Bruere said the Facebook announcement benefits the entire state, even if the data center won't be located in their backyard.
Still, Van Meter is taking the steps to be considered a serious contender for future centers.
The city has established a boutique zoning ordinance for more than 300 acres, including the Diligent property, that would allow for data centers, transaction processing centers, service sector office buildings, banking support services, non-retail support for retail business or service businesses and professional office buildings.
The area has been scrutinized for environmental impact and has been inventoried for wetlands and protected species, Anderson said.
"We have a huge credibility gap that we have to close," he said. "Altoona is in the news today because a company like Facebook is likely to believe Altoona can pull off what they say they will pull off. We can do just as much but we have a credibility gap because we are small. We have a plan that I think helps us close that gap."