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Port of Astoria hopes to pivot to fiber-optic business

New data center could be catalyst
By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 22, 2018 8:24AM

Many of the West Coast’s fiber-optic cable connections are landed along the Oregon Coast.

Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee

Many of the West Coast’s fiber-optic cable connections are landed along the Oregon Coast.

Mark Cox, the tech entrepreneur behind the proposed data center at the North Coast Business Park, has said that 70 percent of the West Coast’s fiber-optic internet connections are within 100 miles of Clatsop County.

Jim Knight, the executive director of the Port of Astoria, sees a potential business opportunity for the agency in managing the distribution of those connections.

During a Port Commission meeting Tuesday, Knight presented a letter of intent from Cox to partner with the Port to manage fiber-optic cables his new facility will need. The letter also indicates Cox’s interest in working with the Port to create an alternative energy source for the data center.

Representatives from Agile Design, the company created by Cox to develop a data center, will flesh out the ideas over the coming weeks at Port Commission meetings, Cox wrote.

“You’re looking at our capacity on the coast to have one of the fastest internet connections on the West Coast, which is a link to the rest of the world,” Knight said.

Port commissioners unanimously voiced support for Knight’s pursuit of the fiber-optic business, seeing it as an emerging industry with a low environmental impact.

Commissioner Bill Hunsinger said he remembers longshoremen at the Port loading cable ships. The Port periodically plays host to cable-laying and surveying ships.

Commissioner Robert Stevens said there is a commodity — data — being landed close to Astoria that the Port needs to hustle to get in on.

“I envision lots of competition for that same role from larger, more established entities to the east of here,” Stevens said, referring to upriver ports in Portland and Vancouver, Washington.

The community is likely to support such a business, said Port Commissioner Dirk Rohne, repeating his caution that Cox’s goal to break ground next year on the data center is not realistic.

“I think it will take two years before they can even put a shovel in the ground … but I support the concept,” he said.


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