Bloomington-Normal’s First Bitcoin Mining Operation: Why and How We Worked as a Community to Do It

For business owners, it’s important to understand the expected return on an investment. But there’s a problem. The impact of everything you do can’t always be measured directly in dollars and cents. But an investment in your community, while it might not benefit you financially, can prove to be a worthy long-term investment in your city, your neighbors, and beyond.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are hot topics around the world, even right here in Central Illinois. Thanks to an initial idea, a lot of hard work, and a company willing to mine cryptocurrency, a few of us made an investment in our community and we now have our first mining facility here in Bloomington-Normal at STL. Here’s why and how we did it.

 

Why

When businesses start, innovate, and grow, they create benefits for the communities they exist in. From creating new jobs to increasing disposable income, I saw many reasons in addition to financial benefits why cryptocurrency mining would be beneficial in this area, including:

  • Increased Interest in Cryptocurrency

I am just starting to scratch the surface of cryptocurrency myself, but its potential is clear and the impact it has and will have on our economy, and even in our daily lives, will be significant. Helping to facilitate interest in cryptocurrency is bringing people together and raising interest in our city. At a recent Bitcoin meetup, we were expecting 10-20 people to show up to discuss some of the basics of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and explain how mining works. Over 50 showed up. We’ve had a handful of meetings since with more scheduled, and more and more people are showing up at every meeting.

  • Student and School Involvement

We have several universities and colleges in town (Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Heartland Community College), and all have expressed interest in cryptocurrency. Using the resources of the school and the curiosity and enthusiasm of the students, we can use this one mining facility to create thousands of new ideas.

For example, many people are rightfully concerned about the energy consumption of mining around the world, and are working to create solutions. By connecting students with the mining center here in town, they can start to play an active role in creating those solutions and find creative ways to use the excess heat produced by the mining equipment.

  • Community Benefit

Bloomington-Normal has a strong small business community with thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners. As cryptocurrency continues to have an impact on small businesses, local companies will start considering accepting cryptocurrency. A local gas station, 707 Liquors, is the host of our city’s first Bitcoin ATM through a third-party retail partner (CoinFlip). The community that is growing around cryptocurrency will help interested businesses get started accepting cryptocurrencies and spread the word about them, which could have a direct impact on their future revenue. And in the future, the application of smart contracts in other industries will also add a lot of value to the companies in this area. 

 

How

There were a lot of moving pieces that made this happen. We are very lucky to have a couple local resources in regulatory expert, Joe Ciccolo, of Bit AML here in Bloomington-Normal, and mining entrepreneur, Rob Tichenor, of Tichenor Crypto Solutions in Champaign, Illinois. Both have been working tirelessly to connect people with resources around cryptocurrency.

“What do you think about bringing mining to Bloomington-Normal? Where could we put it?” In May of 2017, I received this message from Joe Ciccolo. I responded, “I’ll find a location if you can introduce me to the people who could help once we find a space.” And the search was on.

We both felt that it was important to bring mining here even though it could be a lot of work. The options were to either help a company relocate or occupy a vacant building, or help an existing business with available space incorporate mining into their operations, which is what we were able to do after a year of working behind the scenes.

While looking at vacant buildings in downtown Bloomington, Illinois and calculating expected costs, I realized that there wasn’t a cost-effective option. The combination of renovation costs, utility pricing, monthly rental, equipment and local taxes would be too expensive for a new company to take this on. This also would not be efficient enough for an active mining company looking to relocate or add a second location.

I made a phone call to Tim Norman, the founder of STL, a staffing and IT company located in Bloomington. They are headquartered in a less expensive and lower traffic area. I went out to their office and discussed what I wanted to do in the community and was hoping to use some of the space at STL.

Tim was open to the idea and wanted to learn more while taking a cautious approach as any business owner looking to get involved in a new project should. After learning more about the opportunity and purchasing several mining machines, he saw the potential, and with a significant amount of available space in his large data center, it was a perfect fit.

Bitcoin Meetup in Central Illinois

STL is currently working with energy providers to find the best rates possible, technology companies to purchase the best and most efficient mining equipment, and others in the space to learn best practices and overcome early hurdles. As mentioned, they are hosting open networking events and informational meetings to bring as many people into this industry as possible.

 

What’s Next?

For STL, there’s still a lot to figure out, from possibly hosting the mining equipment of others to determining when to grow their operation and at what pace.

While everyone who was involved in this project would not be able to calculate the return on investment of this project, it’s clear to us that it was worth the effort. There are new opportunities that are now available to our city, and we’re excited to see where this goes. 

Thank you to Tim Norman and Joe Ciccolo for making this happen, and I’m excited to see where it will take us in the future. If you’re interested in doing something similar in your city, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Michael@ConsultStraza.com.

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