SALT LAKE CITY — Nowadays, the mere mention of potential employment can draw a crowd — and in the construction industry, the mention of a billion-dollar, federal building project that could mean hundreds of local jobs drew a very big crowd Tuesday.

Hundreds of local contractors, subcontractors and small-business representatives filed through the downtown headquarters of Big-D Construction for a Small Business Outreach Open House to learn about opportunities for involvement in a scheduled 600-day project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Security Agency have commissioned the construction of a data center at Camp Williams, a National Guard training site operated by the Utah Army National Guard and located 26 miles south of Salt Lake City in Utah County.

The million-square-foot facility will include 100,000 square feet of critical data center space, plus 900,000 square feet of technical support and administrative space. Also included in the project will be on-site water treatment facilities, a vehicle inspection facility, perimeter site security measures, fuel and water storage and fire suppression systems, along with complete electrical generator and uninterruptible power supply back-up capacity.

Completing the project will require hundreds of highly skilled people in various disciplines, Rob Moore, Big-D's president and chief operating officer, told the Deseret News.

The open house was designed to reach out and network with the local and small-business community, as well as agencies and associations, and to create subcontracting opportunities with the Balfour Beatty Construction, DPR Construction and Big-D team on the new Utah Data Center at Camp Williams.

The three have partnered to form a new company — called Balfour Beatty/DPR/Big-D — in an effort to secure the construction contract for the data center.

Moore said the application and bidding process for the project is very detailed.

"There is a several-stage process," he said. "We'll turn in our final proposals in June (and) it's anticipated that the (project) award will be in October 2010."

Moore said his team will be competing against other very qualified, experienced general contractors from around the region. He estimated that approximately 50 to 60 subcontractors will be chosen to participate in the project if the team's bid is accepted, resulting in 700 to 800 jobs during the almost two-year construction period.

Federal regulations require that 70 percent of subcontractors qualify as minority, disadvantaged or small businesses.

Among the business representatives at Tuesday's open house was Lynnette Hitt, a marketing manager for Work Care, a Salt Lake City occupational medical clinic.

She told the Deseret News that the data center project offers companies like hers and others in the state a unique and potentially prosperous opportunity.

"If we could keep the majority (of jobs) local," she said, "then it would huge for our economy."