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It's 'Facebook official:' Social media giant Facebook is building in Altoona

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Article By:  Des Moines Register   |   Donnelle Eller

 

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board today approved $18 million in tax credits for Facebook's $300 million data center in Altoona.

"Welcome, Facebook," said board member Pete Brownell. The data center project has been referred to as Siculus Inc. in state documents.

Debi Durham, the state's economic development director, said she expected that Facebook's investment would grow to a billion dollars within five or six years.

"It's good to be friends with Facebook," she said. Gov. Terry Branstad said Facebook is "about as high-profile a company as it gets.

"It's high-tech, high-profile. It's going to put Iowa on the world map, along with our connections with the president of China," said Branstad, who returned recently from visiting China and meeting with President Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"This is a big deal. Facebook, like Google and others that have located in Iowa, we expect this will grow. ... It's an exciting beginning," the governor said.

Google also announced today that it will push its investment in Iowa higher. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company will boost its investment in its data center by $400 million, increasing its total investment in Council Bluffs to $1.5 billion.

The company, which received an increase in tax credits today, already employs about 130 workers in western Iowa.

Facebook says it's considering building three data centers in Altoona, each at least 300,000 square feet in size. The project announced today would be the first phase.

Construction is expected to begin this summer. The first center will open in late 2014 or early 2015, said Jay Parikh, vice president of infrastructure engineering for Facebook, based in Menlo Park, Calif.

The state agreed to provide Facebook with an $8 million refund of sales tax and $10 million in tax credits, based on capital investment.

Parikh said incentives are just one of dozens of issues that are considered in choosing a data center location.

He declined to comment on what made Iowa better than Nebraska or other states being considered.

Branstad said the negotiations with the company took about 18 months.

The project will create 31 jobs, expected to pay at least $23.12 an hour on average.

But Parikh said he expects that employment could rise higher, noting that Facebook's data centers in Prineville, Ore., and Forest City, N.C., employ 60-70 workers. The company has built two data centers in each of those communities.

Altoona city leaders agreed to provide 20 years of tax abatement to the company but had no immediate estimate on how much that might cost.

Altoona leaders have green-lighted three centers, totaling 1.4 million square feet. Experts believe that amount of investment could reach $1.5 billion.

Facebook leaders answered questions this afternoon in Altoona and hosted a luncheon.

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