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Feds open new data center in western Maryland

FREDERICK — Your Social Security information has a new home.

The Social Security Administration held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Monday for a national data center amid wooded hills near Frederick that will replace a 34-year-old building at the agency’s Baltimore-area headquarters, about 40 miles away.

At 300,000 square feet, the two-story, beige-and-glass complex along Interstate 270 is about 35 percent smaller than the building in Woodlawn it replaces and will use about 30 percent less electricity than a typical data center, officials said. They said its computers, powered partly by four acres of photovoltaic panels, will help improve the delivery of Social Security benefits to millions of Americans.

“We are just so pleased to have this wonderful facility and to be able to continue to protect the information that we hold so dear for the public,” Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin told about 100 employees and public officials.

The data center maintains demographic, wage, and benefit information on almost every American. It was funded by $500 million in economic stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Eighty people will work at the center when the gradual transition from Woodlawn to the unincorporated community of Urbana is completed in 2016.

“The interior spaces and infrastructure are designed for flexibility, ensuring that as technology, staffing and energy needs change, updates can be made with relative ease and at minimal cost,” said Norman Dong, public buildings service commissioner with General Services Administration.

Social Security Administration spokesman Bill Zielinski said most of the nearly 900 workers at the current data center in Woodlawn will remain there. The computers at the new center will be monitored remotely by employees there and at a backup center in Durham, N.C., he said.

The Social Security Administration employs about 12,750 people in Maryland, according to November 2013 figures from the state labor department.

The new center in Frederick marks a further expansion of federal influence in Frederick, about 40 miles from Washington. The center is within view of an information technology center for the government-controlled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, and about 10 miles from the National Inter-Agency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick.

Frederick County Commissioner Billy Shreve, whose mother grew up on an Urbana dairy farm, called the Social Security center a huge step in the county’s economic development.

“To everyone out there who drives here, you should look at buying a house. We would love to have you as a resident,” Shreve said.