Facebook plans to spend $750m on a new data centre in New Albany, just outside Columbus, the state capital of Ohio.
The 90,000-square-metre facility, set across 140 hectares, will complement Facebook’s existing US data centres in Oregon, North Carolina and Iowa, as well as those under construction in Texas and New Mexico. All are expanding the company’s self-professed mission to “give people the power to build communities and bring the world closer together”, according to Facebook spokesperson Lindsay Amos, who explained: “Our data centres house the infrastructure that help make it possible to accomplish this mission, and we're thrilled to announce our 10th data centre in New Albany, Ohio.”
Facebook’s site-selection criteria, according to Ms Amos, included good access to fibre optics and power, renewable energy, a strong pool of talent for construction and operations staff, and good partnerships with the local community to help ensure that the project progresses smoothly and quickly. “Deciding where to locate a facility such as this is an incredibly complicated process that involves balancing dozens of different criteria,” she said.
Throughout the site-selection process, Facebook officials met with advisers from JobsOhio, Columbus 2020, The New Albany Company and the City of New Albany. “The teams have a very diligent and swift process for key development milestones, including permits and approvals – and this was critical in our ability to move quickly,” said Ms Amos. “We were confident that we could all work together as partners to move quickly on a data centre project.”
To sweeten the deal, the 'Buckeye State' offered Facebook an estimated $37.1m in state tax incentives. “It’s important to note that the incentives are performance based, which means they are only realised if jobs are created and capital is invested,” said Ted Griffith, JobsOhio managing director for IT.
While a business-oriented tax environment is important, Ms Amos said: “It’s only one part of the kind of broader partnership we need with the local community to make the project successful.”
The Facebook data centre is expected to employ at least 50 full-time members of staff and generate more than $4m in new annual payroll. The first of the two buildings is expected to open in 2019, with the second following in 2020.
Talent to oversee the structure and capacity to build it quickly are a priority. To that end, Mr Griffith pointed out that Ohio has 86 different IT programmes that can help supply talent for data centre operations. “Central Ohio is also known for tech, which is attracting new talent to the state,” he said.
In announcing the project, Ohio governor John Kasich stressed that the project reflects the state’s desire to diversity the kinds of jobs available to its citizens. He referred to it as “sign of a big shift for Ohio”.
Ohio has seen significant investment from big data companies such as AWS, IBM, Huntington Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Cardinal Health and others. Mr Griffith added: “It’s one of the safest states in terms of risk of natural disaster, it offers excellent sites for infrastructure, and a strong workforce that can work for fewer dollars and is more likely to stay in the job long term.”