In the town of Rockdale, Texas a modern-day gold rush is booming.
“I like the small town, country atmosphere, the proximity that we're an hour from anything,” said long time Mayor John King.
Bitcoin has brought new life to this small corner of the south.
Riot Whinstone is located an hour outside of Austin. The company broke ground in 2020. The land houses multiple warehouses, all of them full of computers mining Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that is built on peer-to-peer transfer. Meaning, there is no oversight from a central banking system or from a government. Bitcoin’s price is infamous for fluctuating wildly.
Chad Harris is the CEO of Whinstone, part of Riot Blockchain. It’s currently the largest Bitcoin mine in North America.
“We came here and built this facility when Bitcoin was three and four thousand dollars. We were on this road before it was super cool,” said Harris.
In the Rockdale facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thousands of computers are mining Bitcoin.
“When you go inside the buildings you see massive racks with computers on them,” said Harris. “There’s thousands of them, and they all are mining Bitcoin.”
Jason Les is the CEO of Riot Blockchain, the company that owns the Whinstone mine.
“We believe when our expansion is completed, by summer of this year, that we will likely be the largest Bitcoin mining facility in the world,” said Les.
Texas, with its cheap cost of energy, and bipartisan political support has become a mecca of sorts for cryptocurrency.
Governor Greg Abbott has said he wants to make Texas the Crypto Capital of the world.
“Blockchain is a booming industry that Texas needs to be involved in,” said Abbott from a video on his twitter page in June 2021.
The Governor signed a law for Texas to create a master plan for expanding the blockchain industry in Texas.
Abbott says he believes Texas will be a Crypto leader. Shortly after those comments grocery stores like H-E-B installed cryptocurrency kiosks in some of their stores.
With bipartisan political endorsement, Cryptocurrency has earned itself a star on the global crypto map. But with this exponential growth, comes responsibility. The power grid itself, wrought with problems, proving to be a fickle ally in the past.
But for Harris, relying on the Texas power grid is a gamble worth taking.
“We use power 24 hours a day,” said Harris. “We can click a button and divert our power.”
Harris says Whinstone tries to stay ahead of major winter storms, like Winter storm Uri which killed hundreds of Texans and brought freezing rain, snow, and frigid temperatures. They also power down when temperatures become too hot.
“We had already decided that we were going to turn the whole facility off. We sent everybody home. We knew it was important for this community to know that at all costs, we’re just going to turn the power off,” said Harris.
Turning the facility off in critical moments has helped build trust in the community of Rockdale, where roughly 600 of Whinstone’s employees live.
“We’ve rebuilt the animal shelter; we’ve put lights on all the sports fields. We purchased the police dog. Why? Because we have a large staff, and we know that they need those things in their community.
Mayor John King he believes having a company like Riot Blockchain in the community is a positive.
“What I’m hoping to see is growth within the county, jobs within the county,” said King.
King says he’s seen Rockdale begin to transform.
“Nine months ago, that $300,000 house, you could’ve bought it for $192,000. Houses now are starting to sell for cash over asking prices. They've probably gone up 40 percent In the last year.”
And even King has gotten into the crypto craze.
“I’ve got three computers running at home. And no, I’m not making any money. I’m probably a few thousand behind over what I spent,” said King.
Companies like Riot Blockchain and Bitdeer are just a few of the companies that have landed in the Lone Star state. Bitdeer is also located in Rockdale, just about a mile down the road.
“Rockdale, Texas 50 years ago had the motto or slogan, the city where it rains gold. I think we’re trying to make a city where it rains Bitcoin,” said Les. “Figuratively, of course.”
In small town Texas, this Bitcoin boom, won’t be going bust any time soon.
“We are open for business,” said King. “Our welcome mat’s out there somewhere, if you want to come talk to us, we’re ready.”