Whinstone Breaks Ground
By Mike Brown – Reporter Editor
Chad Harris of Whinstone US said the words about 100 Rockdale and Milam County leaders have been longing to hear Friday morning with the patter of rain on a tent roof keeping the beat.
“We are a company that’s here to stay.”
Occasion was groundbreaking for Whinstone’s massive new data center, located just off Charles Martin Hall Road and north of the former Alcoa Rockdale Operations smelter. Whinstone had actually already broken ground on what should soon become the largest facility of its kind in the world, for Bitcoin mining when measured by mining capacity.The initial phase will see construction of a 180,000-square-foot facility, which will employ about 75.Three other phases are planning boosting the site to one million square feet with 200 jobs. Its first phase is anticipated to use 300 megawatts of power on the way to an eventual gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) late next year. Area economic developers are somewhere between ecstatic and giddy.
“This is the beginning,” Dr. John M. Weed, president of the Rockdale Municipal Development District Board said. “We are going to see more and more development.”
JEANS—Harris, who initiated the contacts with local economic developers and officials, emphasized Whinstone’s commitment to its move to Rockdale from a suburb of New Orleans.
“(Chief Operating Officer) Lyle (Theriot) and I left (Louisiana) two and one-half weeks ago with three pair of jeans, four shirts, a backpack and a laptop and moved to Rockdale,” he said. That drew loud and sustained applause from the crowd. Harris expressed appreciation to Dr. Weed, MDD Executive Director Kara Clore, County Judge Steve Young and Alcoa for their assistance in facilitating Whinstone. He introduced Whinstone personnel and a representative of the venture’s partner, Hirofuma Yamashita, senior managing director of Japanese high-tech giant GMO Inc. GMO is engaged in the Internet infrastructure business, it also runs other businesses such as online advertising and media, Internet financial services, mobile entertainment, and cryptocurrency. It is a market leader for domain names and web hosting services in Japan.
FACILITY—Whinstone will include blockchain, video rendering and artificial intelligence. Blockchain, a component of Bitcoin mining, is described as a “digital ledger.” Video rendering is using information from a coded data source to produce and display an image. Artificial intelligence is the kind of high tech which drives “Siri” and facilitates sophisticated chat options. Initial customers include two publicly traded companies us ing a “significant” share of the capacity to perform Bitcoin mining at the site
‘DIFFERENCE’—Harris said Whinstone’s goal was to be stewards for the community, for its shareholder, its partner and for Rockdale.
“We are here to make a difference, to leave an impact for others to follow.” - Chad Harris
He also thanked the Rockdale area for its support of the project. Also speaking were MDD Executive Director Clore and Betty Russo of Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. The hum of heavy earth-moving equipment just west of the tent, under which the ceremony was held, punctuated the event as well as a light rain. “It only rains (here) on special days,” Dr. Weed joked during his opening remarks.