NEW CASTLE, Pa. — For more than 50 years, Penn Power called the building on the northeastern corner of Kennedy Square, right in the heart of downtown New Castle, Pa., its home. Among the features of the building was a basement auditorium, where the power company could show off some of the technology fueled by electricity.
But after Penn Power moved out in 2005, the building sat vacant. Now, a new tenant is preparing to make the building a technology hub once again.
In October, IT managed service provider ServaxNet bought the building at 3 Washington St. for $85,000 from the Paul Lynch Foundation and has begun renovating it for use as a data center.
“At one point, this was the center of tech in New Castle in the 1960s,” says Daniel Effinite, ServaxNet’s business development manager. “It can be again.”
The data center will be ServaxNet’s third, following sites in Las Vegas and Dallas. Its headquarters is currently in El Paso, Texas.
“This makes sense for the East Coast. We already have Las Vegas to handle our West Coast customers and Dallas for the central states. This moves us further east and completes our footprint across the United States,” says President and CEO Dennis Liong.
ServaxNet provides managed services to businesses that need “high availability” – that is, their websites needs to be fully operational virtually all of the time. Most customers are e-commerce businesses, Liong says.
“We’re focused on e-commerce, because that’s where you usually see the need for high availability and web presence,” he says. “But there’s also internal networks that manufacturers want to keep up and secure. There are medical offices that need to stay compliant with HIPAA. They all need to store data somewhere.”
Already, ServaxNet has moved some servers into the building – no operations have started yet as renovations are still ongoing – and has installed fiber optic cables.
Getting the servers – which can weigh upward of 3,000 pounds – inside was a challenge, says chief operating officer Daniel Romanowski, solved by installing garage doors on the second and third floors so they could be lifted with forklifts.
“This whole area has been torn apart, remodeled and repainted. We focused on the data center first. The whole third floor is [open] and we’re working on the two full stories,” he says.
Effinite, a New Castle native, declined to detail how much ServaxNet has invested in the building, saying only that “we’re investing whatever it takes. There’s no end to it. Whatever it takes to make it right.”
The company received a $200,000 loan from the city’s Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan fund.
If all goes according to the company’s strategic plan, Effinite says, the New Castle building will become ServaxNet’s new headquarters. About a year and a half ago, Daniel Romanowski moved to the city, eventually connecting with Effinite, who began working at ServaxNet earlier this year.
“Danny [Romanowski] has been a huge advocate for this community. As citizens, this kind of fell into our lap,” Effinite says. “Dennis was a little reluctant, but we’re happy to do it here.”
Though the IT firm works with clients nationwide, there is an advantage for businesses in Lawrence County, especially New Castle.
“We need to bring in more companies [to the area], and who wouldn’t want to be next to their data center?” Effinite says. “With office space here too, we have a prime target to have something like the Youngstown Business Incubator’s overflow. We can accommodate programmers, architects and engineers.”
The upper two floors of the building have been gutted and will be filled with servers, while the first floor will serve as offices and possibly an event space.
“There’s a 6,000-square-foot lobby where we plan on doing things like seminars, group talks. It will be available to the community for small events,” he says.
Upstairs, Liong says it’s possible the company will offer private server space to area clients that have special security regulations they must comply with.
“We might do private cage space up here so clients, especially those with compliance they have to have, can come up here,” he says. “They’d use a lock and key, potentially some biometrics.”
The leaders of ServaxNet also intend to plan a role helping local companies develop, Liong and Effinite say. They’ve been in touch with Mayor Chris Frye about helping the city to create a technology plan.
“Our biggest thing here in working with the city is consultation. There are so many things available and people just don’t know where to start. Our biggest tech plan has been the same for years: access to information and good, smart people who are right down the street,” Effinite says. “Whatever their needs are, we can help them implement it. You don’t necessarily need a lot of infrastructure. But you need a fast connection coming in, redundancy and power.”
Pictured at top: ServaxNet is led by business development manager Daniel Effinite, President and CEO Dennis Liong and chief operating officer Daniel Romanowski.