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Flexential says it's growing to meet booming demand, courtesy of Hillsboro's tech industry.

COURTESY PHOTO: FLEXENTIAL - A rendering of the new data center planned by North Carolina-based Flexential.

Hillsboro's fast-growing data center industry is expanding even further, as North Carolina-based Flexential announced Wednesday morning, Sept. 7, that it will add to its datacenter campus in North Hillsboro for the fourth time in about 15 years.

Flexential says it was one of the first companies to move into Hillsboro to capitalize on the demand for data centers, driven by the tech industry.

The company has a 138,000-square-foot data center already in the North Hillsboro Industrial Zone.

Flexential says it will build a fourth data center to add to this campus and will add a fifth facility as part of the new development.

Flexential touted its Hillsboro 2 facility, built several years ago, as "the most connected data center in Oregon" in its press release. It says it's long been the hub for the trans-Pacific high-speed cable lines that are still being developed to connect the continental United States to Hawaii and Asia.

That interconnectivity is a big part of why Flexential and other third-party data center businesses have targeted Hillsboro, and why there is such a high demand for more capacity in town.

"We've got tremendous commitment to the Hillsboro market," said Flexential chief operating officer Ryan Mallory in a follow-up interview. "A lot of it, when you look at the technical side, has to do with the presence of the subsea cables, but also the proximity to a lot of the technology companies that are in the marketplace there … the chip manufacturers, et cetera."

It used to be the case, Mallory said, that chip manufacturers themselves built data centers to drive their operations. Now, companies are investing in the production side instead, leaving big microchip companies to hire out their data capacity to companies like Flexential.

Connection to the power grid is also a big factor.

Portland General Electric has a facility of its own just a stone's throw from Flexential's existing campus, and the utility has long partnered with Flexential and other data providers.

"We have partnered with Flexential since its initial project in 1999 in delivering cost-effective, reliable and sustainable power to enable its customers to grow their digital infrastructure deployments in the Portland region," said Dain Nestel, PGE's director of growth and commercialization, in a statement. "We're proud to support Flexential as they build out this next phase of their growth in Hillsboro."

Another factor is reducing how much power and water get used by this growing industry.

Flexential touted its efficient design for the buildings, which will reduce the amount of water and electricity needed to power the facility. COURTESY PHOTO: FLEXENTIAL - Another view of the proposed expansion by Flexential. The company says that growing demand in Hillsboro's tech sector has bolstered their investment in Oregon.

"We want (the facilities) to meet and even exceed a lot of the green standards that are out there," Mallory said. "We're trying to utilize very efficient technologies in the facilities to make sure that the power we're using is very evenly distributed and utilized, but also that we have a very low impact on any type of water facilities in the market."

The company's facilities in Hillsboro have been built using "green bonds," which have built-in requirements for low power and water usage.

Given the growing demand, Mallory said it can be difficult to know just how long the new facilities will provide for until yet another expansion is necessary.

"That's a tricky question, and if I had a precise answer, I'd be a superstar executive," Mallory said. "But really, we've seen the demand profile in the Hillsboro market expand over the past 24 months, just given the expanded data gravity scenarios. You have these large companies who have traditionally run their own data center — they are starting to contract it out to guys like us."

The construction timeline is still being hashed out, but Flexential anticipates that its first round of data capacity will be available to clients by the second half of 2023.

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