The Twin Cities and other Midwest locations are appealing to companies establishing data centers.
A study set for release today by a national consulting firm says the Twin Cities has the potential to compete well in the rapidly growing field of medical data management.
"It's competitive vs. other major markets," said John Boyd Jr., principal at the Boyd Co., a Princeton, N.J., location consultant.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area ranked 21st most expensive out of 50 cities in a study on the total cost of operating a health care data center. New York ranked highest and Sioux Falls, S.D., ranked lowest.
While the Twin Cities falls in the middle of the pack on cost, Boyd said it offers many of the assets of larger cities -- Chicago, Boston, San Francisco -- at much lower cost. A large research university, major medical industry players and the nearby Mayo Clinic are key attractions, he said.
Boyd said Minnesota also benefits from eight colleges with national accreditation in health care informatics. He said high energy costs, wages and corporate taxes make the Twin Cities area more expensive than some competitors.
Health care data management has been in the spotlight since President Obama threw his support behind rapid adoption of electronic medical records.
The administration aims to have all medical records in digital form within five years, and the stimulus bill that was signed last week includes $20 billion to spur the technology.
The study, which will be released today during a meeting at the Bloomington Marriott Hotel, compared the total cost of operating a health care data center in 50 U.S. cities, including labor, land, construction, taxes, utilities and travel. Minneapolis-St. Paul had an estimated operating cost of $22.5 million a year for a new, 150,000-square-foot data center with 150 employees.
Many cities with the lowest operation costs were smaller, Midwest markets such as Tulsa, Okla., and Des Moines.
"The economy is in contraction," Boyd said. "Companies need to be where it makes sense from a cost perspective."
Google and Microsoft, which both have online medical records services, recently chose West Des Moines and Council Bluffs, Iowa, as sites for new data center facilities.
Boyd said the Midwest appeals to companies because of its low costs, central location and low incidence of natural disasters.
"Well," he added, "except the snow."
Kate Levinson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.