CBRE Data Center Expert Joins National Development Firm in Texas
Haynes Strader spent the past seven years working with data center developers and owners as he helped CBRE expand its group dedicated to the growing industry.
Strader went to work for one of those firms this month, starting as chief development officer at Skybox Datacenters, a Dallas-based data center developer, owner and operator. In this newly created role, Strader will be responsible for scouting new markets, site selection and working through the initial phases of the firm's new developments across the country.
"It was a hard call, hard to do," Strader said in an interview about leaving CBRE. He said he enjoyed his time at the world's largest brokerage and investment firm and learned the data center industry there. Moreover, Strader said the firm's data center group was growing at a fast clip.
Part of that business involved working with Skybox on site selection and transactions last year. Also, in 2018, Strader and Brant Bernet and Chris Hermann represented Houston-based Pinchal & Co., an investor in cryptocurrency company TMGcore, in its acquisition of Skybox Legacy One, a 150,000-square-foot data center in Plano, Texas.
"I had a strong relationship with the Skybox guys," Strader said.
Skybox, led by CEO Rob Morris, said it created the chief development officer position to help it follow through on an aggressive growth plan to satisfy demand for data center campuses and developments.
While demand for data center space already had been building over the past several years, especially with the growth of cloud computing, the coronavirus pandemic increased the need for mission-critical facilities even more, Strader said. As companies sent their employees to work remotely, they needed secure networks to enable them to perform their duties at home or elsewhere.
"This shift is accelerating the digital transformation plans for many employers and we expect to see this translate to increased demand in the data center market," Strader said.
Plus, he said, as businesses were restricted, the amount of online shopping jumped. And as people stayed home instead of going out, they streamed movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment.
"All of that is transacted in a data center," Strader said, "whether it's in the cloud or on a content distribution network."
As demand for data center space and facilities increases, Skybox is preparing to create new supply. The firm plans to develop four to six data centers outside of Texas in the next 18 to 24 months in primary and secondary markets across the country, Strader said.
Skybox also will pursue new development opportunities in its home state, he said. "We still control several sites in Texas," Strader said. The company has built and sold four data center facilities since 2014 and has two under way, including one in west Texas.
As Strader scouts new markets for data center sites, he said several factors make an area prime for development. The availability of affordable power and water are critical, along with the presence of a diverse set of fiber networks.
California is an exception to the rule that data centers be in areas with affordable energy because of the large concentration of technology companies in the state that rely on the facilities regardless of operating costs, Strader said.
Data centers typically tend to be developed in a 30- to 60-mile radius around major metropolitan areas because that's where the companies that need the space and required fiber trunk lines tend to be located, Strader said. For instance, Skybox developed Skybox Houston One, a data center in Katy, Texas, nearly 30 miles west of downtown Houston.
As major companies such as Facebook begin building major data center farms, competition for land is heating up. Strader said states such as Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Minneapolis and Illinois are offering strong incentive packages to lure them.
While new data centers typically don't create the hundreds of new jobs that a new Amazon fulfillment center does, the value of the hardware and equipment inside them is high.
"They create huge tax bases with little required infrastructure from government," Strader said.
A Dallas native who went to high school in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta before returning to Texas for college, Strader hadn't planned to get into commercial real estate.
He started his career as part of the Dallas-Fort Worth corps for Teach for America and taught sixth-grade English for two years in Arlington, Texas. His love of information technology prompted him to next work in IT consulting, but he disliked the grind.
In 2014, Strader joined CBRE and participated in its Wheel Program, a one-year rotation where new employees get the chance to work in several business lines. During the program, he met Skybox CEO Morris, who recommended Strader pick CBRE's data center solutions team and work with Bernet and Hermann.
Strader took the advice of Morris, for whom he now works.
"It's been a blast," Strader said of week one at Skybox. "It's nice to be back in an office with a full team."