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Vast data storage center headed to IowaTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
Data is stored in cabinets and servers in climate controlled buildings such as this one.

North Platte was once high on the list of possible sites for a $1 billion-plus Facebook data center, but in the end it came down to Kearney and central Iowa, and Iowa won.

The new facebook data center was announced Tuesday morning. It will be built in Altoona, Iowa, a town of about 10,000 people on the edge of Des Moines, pop. 200,000.

The data center would be built on 200 acres in an open field, much like North Platte's southeast industrial park near the Cabela's call center.

Data centers are designed to receive and store computer information far into the electronic age.

The storage of computer data for people and companies is often called “cloud” technology, whereby companies keep records and archives on computer chips in centers that can be located most anywhere and accessed via the world wide web.

Consumers also receive vast amounts of music, movies and books from data centers, plus there is huge volumes of information on facebook and other social media.

Facebook now has 1 billion users per month, the company has said.

North Platte apparently became the third choice behind Kearney and Des Moines.

Local officials never talked openly about the deal, citing confidentiality agreements, but the city council annexed the land a year ago. Word officially leaked in late April 2012 during a city candidate’s forum before the primary election.

Mayoral candidate Jerry Stoll said the then-unnamed company nearly picked North Platte out of all the places in the world, showing North Platte's attractiveness to expanding international companies.

Stoll said then that North Platte officials should find a data company whose CEO loves to hunt and fish.


No taxes, lower electricity

Nebraska and Iowa have competed mightly for the billion dollar business, offering a wide array of tax incentives and discounts on utilities, the Bulletin reported in 2013.

Iowa is tough competition. It is well-known for attracting big companies and offering excellent incentives. Google is considering expanding a data center complex in Council Bluffs, a $400 million boost that would bring the company’s investment in Iowa to $1.3 billion, the Des Moines Register reported.

In Nebraska, Yahoo opened a $100 million data center in La Vista near Omaha in 2010.

Both Nebraska and Iowa have relatively low-cost electricity, thanks to publicly owned power companies. Data centers use enough electricity to power 5,000 homes, the Register has said.

And both states offer big tax breaks to growing companies, hoping to capitalize on the construction boom.

Under such incentives, companies like Google and Microsoft pay no sales tax on the equipment and computers they buy. Nor do they pay property tax on the equipment, the Register has reported.

A year ago, as negotiations were well underway, the Nebraska Legislature enacted state incentives to “help entice the billion-dollar data center to Nebraska,” Sen. Tom Hansen noted in his final report of 2012 to the news media and constituents.

Among Nebraska's offerings:

• More incentives specifically for data center projects that will invest $200 million and hire at least 30 new employees (LB 1118).

• Allowed public power companies to negotiate electric rates that are below the retail rate (LB 1043).

Hansen said the Nebraska Legislature also exempted sales and use taxes for biochips, through LB 830 of 2012.

But to no avail, at least not this time.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 4/22/2013
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