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Web Posted: 04/18/2007 2:00 CDT

NSA to build data center at S.A. campus

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The National Security Agency plans to put a data center at the site of the old Sony microchip plant on the Northwest Side, a sign the funding delay for the agency's expansion there may be over.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez announced the plans for the data center in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"This facility will diversify San Antonio's already robust economy, and the resulting job growth signals continuing economic prosperity in San Antonio," said Gonzalez, D-San Antonio.

The NSA could not be reached for comment.

"This is a real positive sign for the mission of NSA in San Antonio," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who has worked to get the project here. "We are still hoping and continue to work with them to get additional personnel from the NSA to San Antonio at the site they are working on."

The agency, known as the nation's code maker and code breaker, already has 2,200 Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and civilian Defense Department employees locally at Lackland AFB's Medina Annex. Those employees are expected to move into the new NSA campus at the Sony plant site next year, said Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

The number of NSA employees at the Texas Cryptology Center is expected to double to more than 4,000 in coming years, Hernandez said.

"We expect there to be a large presence in the way of jobs in the new Texas Cryptology Center, and we expect there to be a very large data center presence," he said.

Two years ago, the NSA announced plans to put a satellite campus in San Antonio. Within weeks, the agency held a job fair in conjunction with its local expansion.

Since last year, San Antonio business and political leaders have worked with the NSA to find out about its plans for its satellite campus. Funding for the project was reportedly in limbo.

Now it appears the top-secret government agency will move forward with plans on the 50-acre site at Loop 410 and Military Drive, which Corporate Office Properties Trust bought and leases to the government.

Three months ago, Wolff and other San Antonio officials visited with NSA officials at the agency's headquarters.

"We told them we were going to get Microsoft, and that really opened up their eyes," Wolff said. "I had a feeling that was a good step for us."

In January, Microsoft Corp. announced plans to build a 470,000-square-foot, $550 million data center on 44 acres in Westover Hills. That announcement followed on the heels of another by Lowe's Corp. last year for plans to build a 100,000-square-foot data center in the same area.

Data centers, which house thousands of computer servers, often have a clustering effect, Hernandez said. San Antonio is expected to get two to four new centers this year, and this was one of the projects he has been working on, he said.

The facilities don't require a large number of employees, but construction costs for the specialized structures are high.

The NSA also is remodeling an old Albertsons grocery store near Interstate 10 on Wurzbach Road, which it plans to use for a training facility.

"This is great news for San Antonio," said Robert Peche, the city's economic development department director. "We understand they were looking at several sites around the country for a data storage facility. The fact they chose to come here is good news. We hope there is more to come."


llorek@express-news.net

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