Why security was so tight at this diversification meeting

Courtesy Switch

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Switch, a high-tech company that started 11 years ago in Las Vegas, now houses digital data for a number of Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government in its expansive facilities.

It isn’t often that you have to give up your driver’s license to attend a public meeting. In fact, it’s probably never happened — until Thursday.

The state Board of Economic Development may have played fast and loose with the state’s open-meeting law when it conducted its January meeting at Switch Communications’ SuperNap facility.

Switch’s CEO, Rob Roy, is a board member and Gov. Brian Sandoval, who chairs the group that is revamping the state’s economic development policies, said he wanted to have some meetings at corporate offices that could have a role in the economic diversification effort.

That proved somewhat challenging at Switch, which houses a high-security repository for the data centers of several Fortune 500 companies.

Switch is located in a nondescript warehouse off the Beltway. It’s so secure that its address won’t read out on a GPS search.

Meeting attendees who managed to find the place were confronted by security guards armed with guns and Tasers.

Ann Pongracz, senior deputy attorney general and the legal adviser to the board, said Switch officials were instructed to allow anyone from the public in and to direct them to the Switch Technically Advanced Group Environment — S.T.A.G.E — the location of the meeting.

But once inside, attendees were required to turn over their driver’s licenses in exchange for a Switch badge, part of the company’s security protocol. They were then escorted down dimly lit corridors to a room set up for the meeting, chilled to cool all the nearby computer equipment.

“I nearly froze in there,” board member Heather Murren said after the meeting.

“We knew when we planned to meet here that we had to make some special arrangements to be in compliance with the open-meeting law,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the department.

Sandoval said in retrospect, plans should have been made to establish a videoconference link to the Sawyer Building for the meeting. With all the fiber-optic lines into the building, it would have been a piece of cake. And there already was a video link in place to an office in Carson City.

At least board members knew they were as safe and secure as they could possibly be with all the firepower in the building.