Detailed Review of the Data Center HubArises in Central Oregon City
APPLE and FACEBOOK each filed plans to expand data center operations in Prineville, Ore., a small community that’s on its way to becoming one of the top data center locations in the U.S. Once the latest projects are completed, the two tech firms will be running a combined 1.2 million square feet of data center space, and each company owns enough land in the city to expand well beyond that.
Related. What is Data Center?
Facebook was in Prineville first, build¬ ing what became a 334,000-square-foot data center. It’s now finishing work on a companion facility estimated by local officials to be 360,000 square feet. The social networking company’s latest plan calls for construction of a third facil¬ ity that will be 60,000 square feet. Facebook owns about 120 acres of land in Prineville, which is the seat of Crook County. Meanwhile, Apple submitted a master plan to “slowly build over time” up to 500,000 square feet of data center space, said Joshua Smith, Prineville’s senior planner.
The company is now nearing completion of a io,ooo-square-foot data center on a 160-acre parcel. Considering the amount of land the companies own, and the ever-growing demand for data center space, “it would not be surprising if [one day] there was more than 2 million square feet in data center space between [them],” said Jason Carr, manager ofthe Prineville office of the nonprofit Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO). Some people might wonder how Prineville, with a population of just over 9,000, attracted the attention of compa¬ nies like Apple and Facebook.
Local economic development officials say a number of factors work in the city’s favor. For instance, there’s plenty of reli¬ able electricity because major trunk lines pass through the region, and the power costs are relatively low — roughly 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Also, there’s plenty of available land, and the climate — arid and cool at night — is ideal for systems running in large data centers. Both Apple and Facebook also received 15-year tax exemptions that apply to buildings and equipment, though not to land, officials noted.
The state has no sales taxes on equip¬ ment, a policy that “was designed to favor . large capital investments,” said Roger Lee, executive director of EDCO. Offsetting Facebook’s tax exemption is a power franchise fee, which is based on the company’s power bill. About 5% of Facebook’s monthly power bill — now about $60,000 — goes to the city of Prineville, Carr said. The city also imposed a so-called “community fee” to help cover the cost of public services used by the facilities. Facebook is projected to pay about $110,000 per year in such fees, and Apple’s annual assessment is expected to be $140,000, according to Carr.
Prineville officials shouldn’t expect the Apple and Facebook facilities to significantly boost the number of local jobs, though, because data centers aren’t big employers. Facebook currently employs about 60 people at its data center; that figure might reach 100 once the com¬ pany’s expansion is complete. Apple will likely employ roughly the same number of people, local officials said. Facebook and Apple have also built data centers in rural parts of western North Carolina — an area that’s also home to a Google facility.