Microsoft Corp. has started moving dirt for its $1 billion data center development in Mount Pleasant, and has locked in the lead contractor for the work.

Chicago-based megabuilder Walsh Construction recently signed on as the top contractor, and is starting the process of seeking subcontractors to prepare for the start of vertical construction of the data center’s four buildings.

Walsh is a national contractor, and has been active in southeast Wisconsin mainly as a major highway contractor. It was among the prime contractors on the rebuild of Interstate 94 between southern Milwaukee County and the Illinois state line that made sites along the highway more attractive for major projects, including Microsoft’s data center.

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