Americas Data Center Market Update – June 2024

12th June 2024

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In the midst of relentless growth don’t forget the people, says Americas CEO Joe Cusick.

Soben is working on some of the largest data center developments in the Americas. It’s a thrilling market to be in right now – constantly evolving and showing no signs of slowing. Our three largest clients all have mega program plans with over a hundred separate projects in the pipeline. All of this of course is thanks to the explosion of AI into businesses and daily lives. No longer a prediction on forecasters annual trends reports – the pipeline of AI developments is a reality – and its implications are wide-reaching.


New locations

With the rise of AI has come an unprecedented scramble for land. Previously, hyperscaler investment was focused on a few key strategic regions on the East Coast, such as data center hotspot North Virginia, California, and Texas. But as pressure increases on space and power, developers are looking to new regions. States including North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin are proving particularly popular thanks to their swathes of land, attractive incentives and power reliability.

Now AI facilities are not so reliant on latency they don’t need to be as close to where they’re needed. This opens up previously unconsidered regions for development. The corridor from Atlanta, Georgia to Raleigh, N Carolina, is one of the fastest growing in the US. And not just for data centers – high tech manufacturers and pharmaceutical giants are all investing heavily in the region. Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona are proving popular – it might not immediately make sense to put a data center in a desert, but the cool nighttime temperatures and remote locations actually make places like this a popular choice.


Power remains a challenge

The other consequence of the push for capacity is generating enough power to run these huge campuses. As Elon Musk has warned, the US is on a course to run out of electricity if we don’t innovate. Indeed, access to reliable power and transmission to site has been a challenge on every major data center development I’ve been involved with in recent years.

There was a time when the limiting factor for developing at pace was equipment. Generators and other larger equipment can only be produced by so many companies and shipped to so many locations. But in the world of AI, this has been superseded by the much more pressing issue of power. Ultimately, there’s only so much power that can be generated.

The big hyperscale developers and end users want the data, but nobody wants to be using fossil fuels to drive these facilities. One possible solution is small scale nuclear power generation, which can generate electricity locally in a space the size of a room. However, political discussion around this is problematic – after all, nobody wants to have a small-scale nuclear reactor in their backyard. This brings us to renewables, which are becoming increasingly important.

One to watch in this space is Brazil, where Soben has just opened our newest entity. Over 80% of Brazil’s power generation already comes from clean sources, including hydro, solar and wind. If an emerging economy can rise without the reliance on fossil fuels, established markets must follow suit. Whilst the environmental consequences of building a dam mean hydro isn’t the most straightforward option, investment in wind and solar are essential to power the industry’s ongoing growth.

And while we’re thinking about natural resources – the huge amount of water consumed by the average campus will present an increasing challenge as liquid cooled facilities become the norm. Where power and equipment concerns have driven change in the past, the availability of water to supply liquid cooled campuses will become an increasingly difficult question to answer – environmental impacts as well as reliability of supply will need to be addressed. Increasing numbers of facilities close to major bodies of water could have several knock-on consequences to escalating cost of development.


“For Soben, as a rapidly scaling business, growth is our day-to-day. So, all this is normal for us. Working in an industry that is mirroring our own growth journey means we’re more attuned to the rapidly expanding market we’re supporting.” 


Growth is business as usual

Whereas previously we were seeing campus developments of 40MW to 100MW, the numbers are now mind-blowing. Here at Soben we’ve started to see 800MW campuses becoming the norm due to AI. The change of scale is staggering. If the market was vertical in 2023, this year it’s got a rocket booster! The numbers just keep getting bigger and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

The trend is reminiscent of the semiconductor boom of the late 90’s, where we saw successive quarters of growth until the technology maxed out. More recently we’ve had cloud computing – now it’s AI and ML. But this is exponentially bigger than anything we’ve seen before. The more AI and ML become involved in industry – whether that’s supporting the development of new technologies or driving automation and efficiencies in manufacturing capabilities – the further down the rabbit hole we fall.

For Soben, as a rapidly scaling business, growth is our day-to-day. So, all this is normal for us. Working in an industry that is mirroring our own growth journey means we’re more attuned to the rapidly expanding market we’re supporting. We have built that nimbleness and responsiveness into our DNA, so that we can respond quickly to the changing needs of our clients – and this starts with people.


Addressing the skilled labor shortage

Outside of the data center industry, one of the main worries is AI’s impact on jobs. If you look at the previous revolutions in industry it was the non-college educated jobs that were the first to go. But with AI we’re going in the other direction – lawyers, engineers, even medical professionals are starting to have elements of their work replaced by machines. We’ll still need bricklayers and electricians to build the data centers – but how long until we can do without the engineers that design them?

All this development puts pressure on the labor pool – both contractors big enough to take on the jobs and deliver them successfully, and the skilled tradespeople to work on site. Developers are all headed to the same locations. But regions new to the industry are lacking experienced local contractors that can handle the work, so labor is being pulled from other states. These multi-billion-dollar mega-projects are having incredible impacts on local economies, but there’s only so much to go around. This may drive further consolidation of the market with fewer, larger, companies capable of delivering.

Take Cheyenne, Wyoming – just 2 hours from Denver and the home of hundreds of megawatts of data center build. How will all these projects get built? You need to find ways to incentivize the workforce to come to your project, which is increasingly difficult when the jobs are far from the coastline and popular urban centers. And don’t underestimate the cost of finding skilled workers either – we’re seeing industry salaries far outstripping inflation – it’s very much a candidate’s market right now.

But it’s not just the swathe of projects that’s the issue here. There’s a dearth of people entering the construction industry in the first place. For the past 20 years the US has seen a decrease in construction workers, especially in the mechanical and electrical trades. As fewer skilled people enter the industry, the more acute the problem will become. We need to urgently address this decline with more apprenticeships, better incentivization, training, and early education around the value of the industry. These are jobs that are here to stay and, for now, aren’t being threatened by machines – there’s something to be said for that.


“My priority is finding ways to develop the next generation of industry talent, giving them an unrivaled work environment here at Soben.”


Boon for construction

Of course, for contractors and consultants like Soben, this is all great news. Our challenge is getting the right people on board and support our clients’ expansion plans. My priority is finding ways to develop the next generation of industry talent, giving them an unrivaled work environment here at Soben. We’re already working with one of our clients to run a graduate development program that introduces them to the industry, our client’s ways of working, and provides the necessary training and qualifications for a successful data center career. Wider than this, we have ensured that our packages are market-leading, including a generous flexible 30-day vacation policy for all our US-based employees.

The pressure is on for businesses to not just attract people, but to nurture and train them. We’re talking about young people straight out of college who aren’t ready to go onto a data center project on their own. At Soben, we’re finding ways to give those people the experience right out of the gates, as well as the highest standard of post-graduate QS training and RICS accreditation.

In this rapidly growing industry, the future for Soben is finding and nurturing talent – investing in our people to support our clients’ growth. After all, we’re a people business.


We’re hiring for early careers and experienced data center professionals for some of the biggest data center projects in the Americas. Interested? Check out our open positions at