LINCOLN — A $1 billion data center reportedly has picked Iowa over Nebraska, despite an effort by the state to sweeten its economic incentives for such large projects.
And Iowa appears poised to get another high-tech plum: an additional $400 million investment at an existing data center for Google just south of Council Bluffs.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority will consider state tax breaks for both projects this morning.
One Council Bluffs official said the developments illustrate how attractive state incentives, along with low electric rates and available land, can lead to economic growth.
“We appreciate the investment they've done,” Terry Bailey of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce said of Google. “They're a good group of people to work with.”
Nebraska officials declined to comment on the loss of the $1 billion data center, referred to as “Project Edge” until an official announcement is made.
The project had considered a site in Kearney, Neb. Last year, the Legislature passed additional incentives on taxes and electric rates to further attract a data center that eventually was linked with Facebook, the social media Internet site.
The Des Moines Register, citing anonymous sources, reported Saturday that Facebook had chosen a site in Altoona, Iowa, near Des Moines.
In Iowa, the data center has been referred to as “Project Catalyst” to protect the company's confidentiality. The project is referred to as Siculus Inc., on today's agenda of Iowa's economic development board.
A spokeswoman for the Iowa Economic Development Authority said that the Siculus project is in Altoona but that no other information would be available until this morning's meeting because some details are still being worked out with the company.
Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse said that even if Iowa is chosen over his central Nebraska city, competing for such a huge data center was good experience and an honor for the community. Kearney's proposed site, near its airport, eventually will attract a data center, Clouse said.
“We've had people telling us it's just a matter of time because it's a great site,” he said.
Project Edge was projected to be built in stages and to have the potential to become a $1.5 billion facility.
That will be the total amount invested in the Google data center near Council Bluffs if the needed economic incentives are approved today.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., opened its $600 million data center on 200 acres of land in the Lake Manawa area in 2009.
A trio of expansions followed.
A year ago, Google won approval of $9.6 million in Iowa tax breaks for a $300 million expansion that would create 50 jobs.
In November, the company announced that it was investing another $200 million, without tax incentives.
Now, according to a filing with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Google is pursuing an additional $400 million expansion. The company is requesting state tax credits of up to $16.8 million.
Such data centers, with huge banks of computers in climate-controlled buildings, consume enormous amounts of energy. Such operations don't generate large numbers of jobs, though they are good-paying positions. Project Edge was said to involve 50 jobs.
In 2010, the Nebraska Legislature passed incentives to attract smaller data centers. That followed an effort by Gov. Dave Heineman to establish “shovel ready” sites for data centers in Kearney, Fremont and South Sioux City.
The Legislature, in 2012, extended tax breaks to data centers costing $200 million or more. It has landed one large project: a $200 million Fidelity Investments facility planned in Papillion.
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