May 20, 2024 12:33 PM

AWS data center tech lead returns to his Mississippi home state with some career coaching advice

Kevin Heard is returning to his home state Mississippi, not only as a local sports legend, but also a data center technician lead specialist at AWS. And while there is plenty of talk of his football career, it’s finding a place in the tech world at AWS that Heard now wants to help coach his fellow Mississippians on.
At a groundbreaking event with over 300 leaders celebrating AWS’s planned $10 billion investment to build two data centers in Mississippi, Heard spoke about the economic growth and career opportunities coming to the Magnolia State. Heard has been living in Oregon for nearly a decade, and works at one of AWS’s data centers in eastern Oregon.
A photo of Kevin Heard, AWS data center tech specialist, U.S. representative Bennie Thompson, Kevin Miller, AWS vice president of global data centers, Duane Matthews, Mississippi data center cluster lead; and Olivia Igbokwe, AWS Federal Policy lead.Right to Left: Kevin Heard, AWS data center tech specialist, U.S. representative Bennie Thompson, Kevin Miller, AWS vice president of global data centers, Duane Matthews, Mississippi data center cluster lead; and Olivia Igbokwe, AWS Federal Policy lead.
“AWS coming to Mississippi is one of the best things that could’ve happened,” said Heard. “The people of Mississippi will have opportunities to work in the tech industry and gain experience, and that’s exciting.”
Heard grew up in Eupora, Mississippi and attended Holmes Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi on a full football and track and field scholarship. After solidifying his collegiate legacy as an elite athlete, which included local legendary status of his ability to jump over cars, Kevin continued with his sports career and played professional indoor football for 10 years with the Tri-Cities Fever in Kennewick, Washington.
Following his retirement in sports, Heard was hired at AWS, received on-the-job training, and quickly gained experience in data center operations and in his fiber optics installation role. Heard currently leads the AWS infrastructure delivery deployment team, which ensures fiber networks are operational for customers and troubleshooting any foreseeable issues.
“I never imagined my career transitioning from sports to the tech industry,” Heard said. But Heard’s sports achievements and experience in coaching impacts his work daily. His professional football career taught him leadership skills, collaboration, communication, and resilience—qualities that now help him with leading his teammates, training colleagues, and delivering results.
AWS’s planned investment in Mississippi is projected to create at least 1,000 new jobs. Heard is excited about the emerging tech industry, and encourages Mississippi residents to apply for AWS data center operations roles to explore new opportunities.
“Just apply and jump outside your comfort zone,” said Heard. “A person doesn’t need a lot of tech experience to work at an AWS data center, and AWS will provide all the training for a person to be successful.”
May 7, 2024 8:34 AM

AWS, Arbor Day Foundation, and eastern Oregon communities unite for Arbor Day tree planting

An image of a group of people standing by a newly planted tree.
To celebrate Arbor Day this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Arbor Day Foundation, and the communities of Boardman, Umatilla, and Hermiston in eastern Oregon came together for a local tree planting initiative. Nearly 200 trees were planted across the region, with another 400 scheduled to be added over the coming weeks, to enhance the local tree canopy and biodiversity.
The initiative was driven by AWS InCommunities based on feedback from community members, local parks and recreation organizations, and AWS employees in the area, who expressed the importance of a healthy tree canopy for providing shade, beautifying public spaces, and supporting local ecosystems.
An image of a group of people digging a hole.
"We were thrilled when AWS and Arbor Day Foundation approached us about a tree planting initiative," said Dave Stockdale, city manager for the city of Umatilla. "Umatilla takes great pride in cultivating and maintaining trees that enhance our community's landscape. This Arbor Day celebration allowed us to highlight the positive impact trees have on our environment and public spaces."
An image of a group of people watching a tree being planted.
In Umatilla, the planting of over 40 trees along the main 6th Avenue thoroughfare will help revitalize the downtown core, replacing trees that had previously died due to harsh weather conditions or lack of water. Trees were also planted at local parks including Hash Park in Umatilla, the newly established Horizon Park in Hermiston, and City Hall Park as well as Marina Park in Boardman. In Boardman, trees were also distributed to local schools and will continue to be planted in a variety of public spaces in the coming weeks.
As part of this initiative, the Arbor Day Foundation will continue to work with the community to provide ongoing maintenance for the newly planted trees over the next two years to ensure their survival and growth.
An image of a woman holding a shovel standing by potted trees.
"At AWS, we strive to be good neighbors and support initiatives that benefit our local communities," said Paul Butler, community engagement manager for AWS InCommunities. "Through this effort, we're proud to play a small part in helping create a healthy urban tree canopy in Hermiston, Boardman, and Umatilla. We are exploring program expansion opportunities in eastern Oregon and other AWS communities, as part of our commitment to being good neighbors and community partners."
February 9, 2024 12:00 PM

Amazon renewable energy commitments will bring clean power to eastern Oregon

Amazon is bringing more clean energy to eastern Oregon communities with a $1.2 million contribution to fund a community solar energy program.
Amazon has long been committed to Oregon, investing over $28 billion into the state since 2010. We first established our presence in eastern Oregon over a decade ago when we began constructing and operating Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers in Morrow and Umatilla counties. These investments have had a positive ripple effect on the state economy and local communities. For example, they are supporting small businesses and job creation, developing educational programs, and setting up sustainability initiatives to drive positive change.
Amazon is committed to building a sustainable business and reaching net-zero carbon emissions across our operations by 2040 as part of our Climate Pledge commitment. In support of that commitment, Amazon is announcing two renewable energy investments in eastern Oregon.
To bring more clean energy to eastern Oregon communities, Amazon is contributing $1.2 million to the nonprofit GRID Alternatives to fund a community solar energy program. The contribution will support the installation of up to 10 solar photovoltaic systems on rooftops of nonprofit organizations, food banks and other community buildings across Morrow and Umatilla counties. Installation of the solar systems is expected to begin in June, and will take approximately five months to complete.
A photo of wind turbines at Amazon Wind Farm Oregon–Leaning Juniper IIA.Amazon Wind Farm Oregon–Leaning Juniper IIAPhoto by Avangrid
Amazon is also announcing its first utility-scale renewable energy investment in Oregon, committing to purchase more than 200,000-megawatt hours (MWh) of clean power each year from a Gilliam County-based 90-megawatt (MW) capacity wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm Oregon–Leaning Juniper IIA.
“Amazon has a long-term commitment to the state of Oregon, which includes helping to bring more renewable energy to the grid. Our work with GRID Alternatives will help expand access to renewable energy to eastern Oregon communities, and we’re excited to make that happen,” said Abhishek Sharma, head of energy strategy, AWS. “Our first wind farm investment in Oregon adds to the 2 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity Amazon has already enabled across the western U.S. grid. This has contributed to Amazon being the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy for four years running and will help Amazon remain on a path to utilizing 100% renewable energy for the electricity powering its operations by 2025.”
Amazon’s investment in the Gilliam County wind farm will enable its operator Avangrid to expand the project’s capacity by replacing older wind turbine blades and equipment with modern technology, allowing for more efficient production of wind energy. We expect these upgrades will enable the wind farm to produce enough clean energy to power the equivalent of more than 22,000 U.S. homes each year. This investment builds on Amazon’s 2023 announcement to work with local utilities to power AWS data centers in eastern Oregon with clean energy.
A photo of wind turbines at Amazon Wind Farm Oregon–Leaning Juniper IIA.Amazon Wind Farm Oregon–Leaning Juniper IIAPhoto by Avangrid
"Umatilla County is a diverse, young, vibrant and growing community that values forward thinking. Amazon has not only been a great partner in the growth and development of Umatilla County, they have embraced a goal to power their operations with 100% renewable energy, including its data center operations. This is an actionable and achievable goal that Amazon is demonstrating clear progress toward, and Umatilla County is pleased to collaborate, partner, and participate in. Umatilla County residents enjoy a strong and positive relationship with Amazon which constitutes sustainable growth into the future," said Umatilla County Commissioner Dan Dorran.
“Morrow County welcomes AWS’s efforts establishing clean renewable energy usage here. These actions demonstrate their continued effort to be a good corporate partner with our county,” Morrow County Commissioner David Sykes said.
“As the state of Oregon continues on its clean energy transition, commitments such as these from Amazon are a positive step in the right direction,” said Tim Miller, Executive Director, Oregon Business for Climate. “Oregon urgently needs to bring more clean energy resources like wind and solar online to create a cleaner electricity grid.”
February 8, 2024 8:28 AM

AWS helps more than 40 community projects make a bigger impact

An image of a child's hand holding a drone.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has awarded more than $300,000 in grants to 43 different community projects in eastern Oregon. These grants were provided through the AWS InCommunities Fund. This is the second consecutive year AWS has offered grants aimed at driving positive change in eastern Oregon. Including this year’s awards, the program has now funded more than 90 projects in the region.
“We are invested in the long-term success of eastern Oregon, and that includes supporting the vibrant community of organizations and entrepreneurs that are making a difference,” said Paul Butler, Community Engagement Manager, AWS. “This year’s grant recipients exhibited remarkable creativity and passion toward a number of causes we all care about. It’s an honor to support these worthwhile projects. Congratulations to all.”
The AWS InCommunities Fund program, administered by nonprofit ChangeX, provides cash grants to projects that aim to make a difference in areas such as science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, workforce development, environmental sustainability, homelessness, hunger, and more. Late last year, the program invited organizations and residents of eastern Oregon to apply for up to $10,000 in funding.
An image of drones and educational toys.
Projects funded this year span communities across Umatilla and Morrow Counties as well as local tribal areas. A complete list of awardees can be viewed here. Applications for the next AWS InCommunities Fund will be announced in the second half of 2024.
October 12, 2023 3:54 PM

AWS economic impact in the U.S.

August 23, 2023 8:00 AM

How AWS data centers are spurring economic growth in eastern Oregon

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) opens its data centers, people and communities prosper. Nowhere is this more apparent than in eastern Oregon. In Oregon’s rural Morrow and Umatilla counties, AWS operations employ more than 5,000 skilled workers, or about 18% of total employment.
In the new AWS economic transformation analysis report Stories of Economic Mobility in Eastern Oregon, local employees say their lives and careers dramatically improved after getting jobs in the data centers.
For example, Ray, a native of Hermiston, Oregon, describes earning $13 per hour when he left his retail job of seven years for a data center technician contract position with AWS, which started at $20 per hour. Later, the married father worked his way into a full-time position and participated in an AWS coaching program to become a manager. He now makes nearly triple what he did a few years ago.
An image of an Amazon employee.
“We were able to buy a house last summer, and since I’m working for AWS, I am able to afford to pay a private therapist for members of our family who needed long-term health care support,” said Ray.
Uppa tells a similar story. A former registered nurse, she was dissatisfied with the inconsistent take-home pay and hours of her job. She’d always wanted to work in technology but didn’t have the background to qualify for a job at her local AWS data center.
The Hermiston resident enrolled in an AWS-funded technician training program at Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC), in Pendleton, Oregon, and managed to land an AWS job before she graduated. Today, she is a data center operations (DCO) lead who manages a team and mentors new hires, including women with career-changing aspirations like her own.
An image of an Amazon employee.
“I tell my daughters a lot of stories from work, about my successes and my challenges. I want them to know that they can be strong and pursue their ambitions, no matter what,” Uppa said.
Ben also benefited from technical training. A former construction worker and forklift driver, he’s lived his entire life in Hermiston. Ben enrolled in AWS’s Grow Our Own Talent program, which provides paid, on-the-job training for workers with nontraditional skills and experience. Between 2020 and 2022, more than 350 workers participated in Grow Our Own Talent program, with 278 of those being hired by AWS. He was one of them. In fact, he secured a job operating and maintaining specialized equipment at an AWS data center in Umatilla county and now earns twice as much as he did three years ago.
An image of an Amazon employee.
“When I started working as a data center employee, I found myself more and more able to significantly contribute to my family,” said Ben.
Finally, there’s Clint from Boardman, Oregon. After spending a dozen years working at a local chemical depot, he tried a variety of jobs and considered leaving the area entirely. Then, a casual conversation with an AWS employee led him to look into opportunities at the company, and he landed a contract position in 2017 as a cable engineer, which he held for three years before being hired on full time. He was later promoted to manager through an Individual Contributor to Manager (IC2M) internal program and has now quadrupled his annual income from five years ago.
An image of an Amazon employee.
“Thanks to AWS, I can have a job that allows me to stay local and work for a company that provides the stability I was looking for,” Clint said.
Ray, Uppa, Ben, and Clint are prime examples of how the accessibility of technical jobs and training related to cloud infrastructure can transform careers and lives. What’s more, when a company comes along with a commitment to give back to local communities, it creates pathways for future success. From 2012 through 2021, AWS has invested more than $15.6 billion in capital investment in eastern Oregon. This investment has helped support thousands of local jobs in Oregon’s Morrow and Umatilla counties as well as fund programs that are a path to new careers in tech.
In eastern Oregon, for example, AWS offers a number of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) experiential learning and training classes and workshops, like We Build It Better (WBIB), which has helped more than 1,200 Oregon middle school students gain exposure to working in technical environments.
We also partnered with Greater Oregon STEM (GO-STEM) to mail STEM kits to fourth graders across the region and launch a Mobile Maker Lab. And our AWS InCommunities programs, including AWS Girls’ Tech Day and AWS Think Big Spaces, use AWS’s unique resources to expand access to STEAM learning opportunities. Overall, AWS donated $2 million to organizations in eastern Oregon via AWS InCommunities in 2022.
AWS also sponsors training and reskilling programs, internships, and paid on-the-job learning in concert with BMCC. These efforts aim to help workers like Ray, Uppa, Ben, and Clint transition into data center technician or engineering operations roles. In addition, AWS provided BMCC with a $180,000 grant to purchase lab and training equipment, and donates $100,000 each year to scholarships for students enrolled in data center curriculums.
Ben sums up the impact of his new career simply.
“My son and youngest daughter are now able to concentrate on school instead of having to get a job to pay for their extracurricular expenses,” he said. “Working with AWS has been the single best thing in our lives, both monetarily and otherwise.”
AWS is proud of its history in eastern Oregon and the impacts of our investments in the community and with our employees. We will continue investing in regional economies to catalyze inclusive and long-term growth for generations to come.
Find out more about our investments in eastern Oregon and discover more about our impact in communities where we have data centers.
August 8, 2023 12:12 PM

Reused water from AWS data centers helps grow Oregon crops

A photo of an irrigation canal in the town of Umatilla, OR.
At the confluence of the Umatilla and Columbia rivers in eastern Oregon, water winds through the town of Umatilla’s neighborhoods. An irrigation canal is fed by cleansed cooling water straight from a nearby AWS data center. The water is used to grow the corn, soybeans, and wheat, for which the region is famous.
“Besides the land we own, water is one of our greatest assets," said Vern Fredrickson, local farmer and vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the West Extension Irrigation District.
July 27, 2023 5:47 PM

AWS Community Fund Now Accepting Applications for Projects in Morrow and Umatilla Counties

As part of its commitment to support communities where it has presence, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is launching the AWS InCommunities Fund for the second consecutive year. The AWS InCommunities Fund is a microgrant program that supports local projects driving positive change in eastern Oregon. Last year the fund supported more than 50 projects in the region, including a creative space for small business development, free English language evening classes for people who speak Spanish, and a garden at a local high school where students can grow their own produce. AWS has committed $300,000 to this year’s fund, which is open to individuals, local community groups, schools, non-profits, and other organizations in Morrow and Umatilla counties.
The AWS InCommunities Fund is managed and administered by non-profit organization ChangeX. Learn more about the fund and how to apply. Applications for the AWS InCommunities Fund will be accepted until September 1, 2023.
May 31, 2023 6:00 AM

AWS docuseries shows what it’s like having data centers in your community

Data Centered: Eastern Oregon is a five-part mini-documentary series that tells the stories of local people whose lives and livelihoods are being changed for the better by the cloud and the opportunities it brings.
Watch the latest episodes of "Data Centered: Eastern Oregon" and learn more about Amazon's investments in eastern Oregon.
May 25, 2023 9:00 AM

Why AWS is proud to call Oregon home

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been constructing and operating data centers in eastern Oregon since 2011. The facilities are a key part of the infrastructure needed to provide cloud computing power to customers. For more than a decade, we’ve invested more than $15.6 billion in the area—supporting local jobs, generating economic growth, providing skills training and education, and unlocking opportunities for local businesses and suppliers. We’re committed to the community and proud to call Oregon home.
Read more about how we work with the local community in eastern Oregon.
Find out more about our investments in eastern Oregon and discover more about our impact in communities where we have data centers.