Floyd County officials are moving to resolve, one way or another, the controversial proposed data center project in the Commerce Park on Christiansburg Pike.
Details of decisions made in an hour-long closed-door session of the Economic Development Authority have not yet been disclosed but the county is obviously moving to either get Data Knight 365 to move on the deal or move on.
I’ve been around a lot of business deals in my life but this one ranks as one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered. Questions continue to haunt Paul Allen, promoter of the project after the State of Ohio shut down his business and a civil suit filed under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act in Tennessee names him in a loan-kiting scheme that nearly brought down a 105-year-old family owned bank.
At this point, Allen is not charged with any crime — either state or federal — but he has been accused of being less than forthright in a deal that fell through at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant and an aborted attempt to buy a networking project in Memphis.
So far, the only name on agreement documents signed with Floyd County officials is William Byler, the Amish businessman from Middlefield, Ohio, who co-owns a woodworking firm with his father and who has partnered with Allen in other ventures. The county based, in large part, its decision to go forward with the deal because on the reported involvement of Power Direct, a Cleveland telemarketing firm run by Dan Delfino.
But Delfino, like others involved in the deal, has not been in contact with the county since Data Knight 365 missed the Sept. 1 deadline for closing on the $900,000 purchase of 51.5 acres of land behind the power substation in the Commerce Park.
A tightly-written performance agreement requires Data Knight to spend $67 million to develop a 120,000 square-foot facility by Sept. 1, 2013. Failure to meet any of several milestones in the agreement gives the county the right to revoke the deal and retain all funds paid to that date and ownership of all improvements made to the property.
Floyd County required Data Knight to furnish three pieces of documentation by closing:
- A documented list of all principals in the project;
- A verifiable letter of credit;
- A detailed explanation of what role Allen now plays or will play in the project.
When the EDA met Tuesday night, the county had not heard from the company nor had Data Knight provided any of the documentation requested.
A lack of communication and failure to turn over required documentation led to the disqualification of Allen’s previous company, B-Telecom Inc., from further consideration in the sale of the Networx project in Memphis a few years ago. Questions over the validity of a letter of credit also became an issue when B-Telecom tried to lease space for a data center operation at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.
Data Knight’s filings as an LLC (limited liability company) list only Byler as an owner of the company. Byler was also a participant in the failed deal at Radford.
So the county is faced with a data project hampered by a considerable lack of data.