BUSINESS REPORT: Maryland — SSA’s New Data Hub Moves Forward In Urbana

Conceptual layout of the Social Security Administration’s new data center in Urbana.

By Jonathan Sanders
From the May/June 2013 issue

The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Mid-Atlantic Region and the Social Security Administration (SSA) are collaborating to design and construct the SSA’s new National Support Center in Urbana, MD. The 300,000-square-foot facility will include data, office and warehouse space.

A new $192-million data center will replace the existing National Computer Center located at the SSA Headquarters Campus in Woodlawn, MD, which houses computer operations essential to prompt and accurate payment of benefits to Americans. The existing computer center was constructed in 1979 and the infrastructure systems are approaching the end of their useful lives.

Sustainable materials will be used in the National Support Center facilities, and the project is designed to incorporate energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and on-site renewable energy sources.

The SSA awarded the contract to design and build the new data center to Hensel Phelps Construction, a Colorado-based general contractor. The contract’s total cost is about $192 million, according to GSA documents filed online.

The new SSA Data Center, situated atop a pastoral landscape, will blend seamlessly into the surrounding site. (Photo:

SSA bought the Urbana site in late August 2011. The property is part of the Urbana Corporate Center, a large campus that also is home to a 60,000-square-foot data center servicing Fannie Mae, a provider of housing loans to low-income Americans.

In a report released in 2011, the SSA’s inspector general concluded that the Woodlawn facility would not be able to support the administration’s expanding capacity requirements by 2012.

The Tier III data center in Urbana will support about 10MW of IT load. The building is required to achieve a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) is a system for rating construction projects’ green design and construction practices.

About 280 vendors expressed interest in participating in the project, including Walsh, Wright Line, Panduit, Verizon and others. The new data center will seek LEED Gold certification, and is scheduled to complete construction in late 2014.

Old Dominion Plans Generator in Cecil County

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) is seeking approval to construct a state-of-the-art natural gas fueled electric generation facility in Cecil County, MD. Named the Wildcat Point Generation Facility, the plant would be built five miles west of Rising Sun, MD on existing property at the Rock Springs Generation Facility, which ODEC constructed and which became operational in 2003.

Wildcat Point would yield several benefits for Cecil County and the region. It would provide ODEC’s member distribution cooperatives reliable access to affordable power at a time of growing energy needs, including more than 170,000 cooperative members on the Eastern Shore. It would be powered by natural gas, a clean and domestically plentiful form of energy used to create electricity. It would reduce stress on the region’s electric grid, which benefits customers throughout the region. Lastly, it would create a peak force of approximately 600 temporary construction jobs and roughly 30 permanent jobs. Wildcat Point is expected to become operational in 2017 and generate approximately 1,000 megawatts of power, enough to serve 390,000 homes annually.

“Even after factoring in our members’ well-established load control and energy-efficiency programs, demand for electricity in ODEC-served areas continues to grow,” said Jackson E. Reasor, Jr., president and CEO of ODEC. “Constructing a state-of-the art, environmentally sound facility will ensure our members have access to reliable, affordable and locally produced power far in to the future. It will also create jobs and a steady source of new revenue for Cecil County. We are proud to have a ten year track record of safe, responsible power production in Cecil County and look forward to working with the County and the State of Maryland during their review of our proposal.”

“ODEC has been a good neighbor in Cecil County for more than a decade,” stated Cecil County Executive Tari Moore. “I’m pleased to have an opportunity to extend a partnership that provides clean energy for ODEC’s customers, and a significant number of jobs for our community.”

ODEC is a not-for-profit provider of wholesale power to 11 member distribution cooperatives in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware that serve approximately 1.2 million people. Over the past ten years ODEC has experienced growth in electricity sales of over 26% and additional growth is projected over the next decade. This increasing need has been supplied through a combination of ODEC’s owned generation facilities and purchased power, with a growing reliance on market purchases. Wildcat Point would enable ODEC to meet this rising demand and replace electricity bought on the market with cost-effective source of locally produced electricity.

Further, Maryland’s power plant fleet is aging and unable to meet statewide energy needs. Maryland imports 42% of its power, making it the fifth largest energy importer in the U.S. Two-thirds of the power generated in Maryland comes from power plants that are at least 30 years old. A 2011 report for the State of Maryland projected that the state could need new generation capacity as early as 2015.

ODEC member Choptank Electric Cooperative serves more than 52,000 members on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, including nearly 3,000 in Cecil County. These consumers and the broader region will directly benefit from ODEC’s ability to produce reliable electricity from a highly efficient facility such as Wildcat Point.

“We want our growing member base to have the most reliable and cost-effective electricity possible, and the Wildcat Point facility is essential to reaching that goal,” said Olin S. Davis, III, board chairman of Choptank Electric Cooperative. “ODEC’s proposal is advantageous to our members because it enables us to shift from electricity bought on the market to electricity produced locally by our wholesale power provider. This is a win for our members.”

ODEC is currently working with the Cecil County government on the proposed project and will apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Maryland Public Service Commission this May. The current facility, Rock Springs Generation Facility, is co-owned and operated by Essential Power, LLC.

Synagro Moves Jobs to Baltimore Area

Waste recycler Synagro Technologies Inc. is closing its Houston, TX office and consolidating its headquarters in White Marsh, MD.

The Carlyle Group LP-owned company, which had been co-headquartered in Baltimore and Houston, said it would use bankruptcy to restructure debt and sell its assets to EQT Infrastructure in a $455-million deal, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. The company filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization of its debts in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware and said it expects the sale to be completed in two to three months.

As part of a plan to strengthen the balance sheet and position the company for growth, Synagro decided in early April to close the Houston co-headquarters and make White Marsh its corporate home, a spokesman said. The company plans to increase its employment from 41 to nearly 100.

Synagro calls itself the largest recycler of industrial and municipal organic waste in the United States. It has a contract with Baltimore to operate and provide equipment at Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant on Asiatic Avenue and Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant on Eastern Avenue.

The plants treat wastewater for the city, and Synagro recycles the byproducts for use as fertilizer and as an energy source, said Tom Becker, a company spokesman. The plants’ assets, and wastewater treatment plants in Philadelphia and Sacramento, will be included in the sale to EQT but not in the Chapter 11 filing, the company said.

Founded in 1986, Synagro employs 800 people in 34 states, according to its website. The company serves more than 600 municipal and industrial water and wastewater facilities throughout the U.S.

Maryland Exports Surged to Record Level in 2012

In 2012, Maryland’s exports reached a record $11.8 billion. It was one of few states to increase its number of goods and services launched into the international market.

In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the National Export Initiative, a plan to double the United State’s exports within five years. Shortly thereafter, Governor Martin O’Malley created the Maryland Export Initiative, which also seeks dramatic growth in exports.

Several federal and state programs are now working toward those goals. The Baltimore U.S. Export Assistance Center, through the International Trade Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration, works to provide help to business seeking international customers. Through Maryland DBED, businesses have access to the ExportMD Award, which offers up to $10,000 in reimbursement for expenses associated with an international marketing initiative.

Maryland’s Pathfinder Program also subsidizes costs to help send companies to international trade shows, including this year’s Paris Air Show. Signe Pringle, program director of the Office of International Investment and Trade, has worked to recruit companies for the Paris Air Show’s prestigious annual event in June, and she says enthusiasm is growing.

“We’ve seen a big interest from Maryland companies, especially defense companies. They’re trying to diversify their business, and in this economy, you have to,” she said. “We want to make sure they know they’re not in this by themselves. There are so many resources available.”

State and federal programs also sponsor organizations that promote exports, including the Maryland/DC District Export Council and the World Trade Center Institute.

Maryland DBED on May 21 sponsored the Maryland/DC DEC’s first-ever Celebration of Trade. Featuring dozens of industry and governmental experts, the day-long conference showcased Maryland’s unique advantages, including the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore Washington International Airport.