A cloud with a silver lining descended on Wollongong yesterday when Minister for the Illawarra Greg Pearce and Metronode general manager Malcolm Roe officially turned the first sod to start construction of a $125 million data centre at Unanderra.
And the event marked the start of what was likely to be more significant investment in Wollongong's future as an ICT hub for NSW.
The new facility's modular design means it will be built in nine months and operational by next August when up to 15 people will be employed.
Metronode is a Leighton-owned data centre specialist organisation that provides solutions to carriers, service providers, corporations and government bodies.
Mr Roe said the investment at Unanderra would help cement Wollongong's place as a centre for ICT activity within two milliseconds of Sydney and Canberra.
Mr Pearce said the modular design provided an opportunity to easily expand the facility.
"We are expecting this one to grow," he said.
"This is contributing to the development of the modern community and workplaces in the Illawarra by focusing on IT growth and innovation."
Further investment and jobs could also come from plans to fabricate modular components in the Illawarra.
"We have not made a final determination on that," Mr Roe said.
Mr Pearce said two new data centres at Unanderra and Silverwater would give the government the storage and computing power it needed to phase out inefficient data storage facilities.
Mr Pearce said the new Unanderra facility would help make the Illawarra and NSW a destination for high-tech companies offering services in the rapidly expanding ICT sector.
"The Illawarra is already doing an outstanding job in positioning itself as an ICT services hub, through such initiatives as the UOW Innovation Campus and the dedicated work of ICT Illawarra," he said.