AI, TELECOM, AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: INSIGHTS FROM METRO EDGE’S CEO CRAIG HUFFMAN AHEAD OF PTC’24

Posted on DataCenterPost.com

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Data Center POST had the pleasure of engaging with Craig Huffman, Co-Founder and CEO of Metro Edge Development Partners (Metro Edge). Huffman is a veteran of real estate private equity with nearly two decades of experience as an entrepreneur. Most recently, he served as Co-Founder and Principal of Ascendance Partners, a Chicago-based real estate private equity firm established in 2006 and focused on commercial real estate investments in metropolitan Chicago. Prior to Ascendance, Huffman worked in diverse senior management roles in the sectors of entrepreneurship, education, non-profit and politics. Huffman serves on numerous philanthropic boards and is an advisor and investor for several emerging minority entrepreneurs.

Hear the unique perspectives Huffman has to offer ahead of PTC’24 by reading the interview below.

Data Center Post (DCP) Question: PTC’s Annual Conference is a strategic springboard for the global communications industry, and this year is no different. How is your business addressing AI needs, keeping in mind the upcoming rules and risks associated with AI?

Craig Huffman (CH) Answer: Metro Edge Development Partners (Metro Edge) addresses the evolving needs of artificial intelligence (AI) in the communications industry with its flagship data center, IMD1. This state-of-the-art facility is specifically designed to cater to high-density compute solutions, including AI and machine learning (ML). IMD1’s strategic location in the Illinois Medical District (IMD) of Chicago ensures optimal connectivity and access, vital for AI deployment. The data center’s design incorporates 24 MW power availability in its first phase, with the capability to expand, highlighting its readiness for the escalating power demands of AI applications. Additionally, IMD1’s commitment to security, with features like seven layers of physical security and biometric access, ensures the protection of sensitive AI data against emerging threats. Metro Edge’s focus on creating technologically advanced, secure, and strategically located data centers positions it at the forefront of supporting the burgeoning AI sector, while remaining mindful of the upcoming rules and risks associated with AI technology.

DCP Q: At PTC’24 there will be a few sessions focusing on the status and opportunities in the telecom market. From telecom equipment, services, and wireless communication, which area of the industry does your company focus on, and where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?

CH A: Metro Edge, in collaboration with valued partners like Wireless Guardian, Inc., is strategically focused on the wireless communication aspect of the telecom industry. Wireless Guardian’s expertise lies in bringing free high-speed connectivity to urban environments, especially to underserved communities, thereby actively working to close the Digital Divide. This aligns with Metro Edge’s commitment to community development and equitable access to technology.

Looking forward to the next 5-10 years, Metro Edge’s joint efforts with partners like Wireless Guardian will be pivotal in reshaping the telecom landscape. Metro Edge aims to broaden their impact to major cities across the United States, leveraging their partnership to provide network monetization capabilities similar to those used by larger corporations. This approach not only caters to current needs but also sets a progressive direction for the telecom industry, where inclusivity and advancement go hand in hand.

DCP Q: At PTC’24, on January 23, 2024, the Infrastructure Builders panel will discuss how the world will look in 2033 (10 years), when we are one-third of the way through the digital century. How are you approaching projects and planning for future growth with the shifting utilization of digital infrastructure?

CH A: As we look ahead ten years to 2033, Metro Edge is actively shaping their approach to digital infrastructure projects with a keen focus on workforce development and capacity building.

Anticipating a diverse range of advanced technological integrations, Metro Edge is investing in staffing solutions and skill enhancement, focusing on developing a skilled workforce in technology and real estate through social impact initiatives.

Their social impact plan, centered on training programs and educational partnerships, is crucial in preparing a workforce adept at navigating the digital landscape of the next decade. This forward-looking strategy positions Metro Edge to effectively address the evolving needs of digital infrastructure in 2033 and beyond.

DCP Q: What core markets do you operate in and what are the key opportunities / challenges in these markets and how are you adapting to address them?

CH A: Metro Edge operates primarily in urban markets, focusing on technology-driven real estate developments like data centers, which are crucial for the evolving digital landscape.  These urban settings offer significant opportunities but also come with distinct challenges.

The challenge associated with land acquisition is the limited availability of suitable land in urban areas. To combat this, Metro Edge employs strategic site selection, balancing accessibility, cost, and community impact to find optimal locations.

The challenge regarding power supply is ensuring reliable and sustainable power supply in dense urban environments. Metro Edge places an emphasis on sustainable architecture and renewable energy sources to efficiently manage power demands.

Engaging the local government has its challenge of bridging the knowledge gap with said local governments regarding the importance of data centers. The strategy employed by Metro Edge is proactive engagement and education with local authorities and communities to foster understanding and support.

Lastly, balancing the trade-offs between urban vs. suburban locations is inherently challenging. Metro Edge carefully evaluates the unique benefits of both settings to optimize their developments for the specific needs of each project.

By aligning each challenge with a corresponding strategy, Metro Edge is well-equipped to capitalize on the opportunities in their core urban markets, ensuring their developments are both impactful and sustainable.

DCP Q: PTC’24 is the 46th annual PTC Conference. During this four-day event, how can people meet or learn more about you (or after PTC’24)?

CH A: For anyone who would like to meet with us at PTC’24 please complete this form.

For those looking to connect with us across social media please reach out via LinkedInX (formerly Twitter), or Instagram. To learn more about Metro Edge or schedule a virtual meeting please connect here.

DCP Q: What else would you like for our readers to know that you haven’t already shared about your company?

CH A: Metro Edge’s latest project, IMD1, is a state-of-the-art data center situated in the heart of the Illinois Medical District (IMD). A pinnacle of data center innovation showcasing an impressive 24MW, 5-story structure in the heart of downtown Chicago. This greenfield development is primed for cutting-edge data center innovation, ready to be built and transform the technological landscape.

IMD1 features include:

  • Advanced Technology: Tailored for AI, ML, and high-density computing
  • Prime IMD Location: Central positioning for optimal connectivity
  • Community Impact: Driving economic and technological growth in IMD
  • Hyperscale Ready: Entitled with committed power and a design that supports new-age technologies
  • Chicago Market Demand: Positioned in a city with one of the highest demands for data center facilities
  • Power Commitment: Backed by ComEd’s commitment of 24 MW of power, ensuring reliable energy supply
  • Pre-Construction Lease Opportunities: Currently offering leases for this modern, 200,000 square foot facility, ideal for businesses and organizations seeking state-of-the-art data center space
  • Optimal Connectivity: Easy access to major fiber networks within the city, enhancing digital communication capabilities

To learn more about PTC’24, please visit: www.ptc.org/ptc24. The event takes place January 21-24, 2024 in Honolulu, HI – registration is still open for those interested in attending.

To meet with Metro Edge at PTC’24 you can request a meeting here.

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Data Center POST aims to provide useful content to the data center community. Data Center POST was created for the sole purpose of offering timely, relevant information to data center and IT managers. Today, we’re doing the very same thing — telling you what makes today’s data center tick, and tomorrow’s data center as well. Our daily posts are contributed by senior IT and business executives, and other industry experts. Data Center POST works hard to get the most current information to add relevance to the successful data center.

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