How bitcoin is helping Massena's tax rolls

Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 5:03 PM EST
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Small communities are looking for new ways to build up their economy. Our Kelly O'Brien takes you to Massena, New York, where a new virtual industry has set up shop for investment in the future.

"I'd love to take the credit for it but I really didn't do much," said Steve O'Shaughnessy, the Massena town supervisor.

O'Shaughnessy says when he took office in 2017, plans were already in the works for the bitcoin industry to move in. It's something he says he needed to do a lot of research on.

"We also received several different lessons on how they make them and what goes into that," O'Shaughnessy said.

Bitcoins are a type of cryptocurrency or digital dollars produced by computers solving math equations. Bitcoin mines are where the computer servers live. Some companies are home to thousands of servers.

In order to run this kind of business, it takes a lot of storage space and energy, so there needs to be cheap power available.

"We have had a lot of heavy industry that used big switchyards to bring huge amounts of electricity to their projects," O'Shaughnessy said.

Open space and access to power is what lead Coinmint to the area. It's run out of the old Alcoa East facility in Massena. WCAX News reached out to Coinmint on multiple occasions trying to get a comment on this story but we did not hear back from them. However, a lot of information can be found on their website.

Coinmint says it's currently the largest digital data center in the world, crediting the 435-megawatt capacity for power. It says that's three times larger than any other known digital currency data center.

"I think there are over 70 jobs out there," O'Shaughnessy said.

He says the jobs come from the computers needing maintenance, repairs and installations, and oversight of the facility.

Without the operation inside, it could have done damage to the town's tax rolls.

"If they didn't have Coinmint in there, the chances are they would have taken down those buildings and then their assessments would be lower," O'Shaughnessy said.

There are still other factories that are equipped for high-energy use and technology, and they're hoping that will persuade other companies to move to Massena.