You Paid for it: Bringing Facebook’s data center to central Ohio

NEW ALBANY (WCMH) — In a few short years your favorite vacation pictures, videos and passive-aggressive Facebook comments will be stored right here in central Ohio. The social media giant is building a $750 million and nearly one million square foot data center in New Albany set to go live in 2019.

Construction has already begun on the facility off Beecher Road. The new facility promises to bring up to 100 permanent jobs and spur the local economy, but some are critical of the incentive package it was given and wonder how much it will actually help central Ohio.

“A big day for the city of New Albany,” Mayor Sloan Spalding calls the venture a big win for the small town of just under ten thousand residents. “The competition for corporate partners is very fierce,” Spalding added.

The upfront benefits are clear. The construction of the building will boost Ohio construction jobs and wages up to $77 million dollars and will employ up to 1688 workers. It will also produce $243 million in output along supply chains.

According to a US Dept. of Commerce study, the data center will inject $32 million dollars annually in the local economy once it goes online in 2019.

The center will also employ up to 100 people with high-paying jobs. “To get involved in an emerging industry like this early on, is only a positive for our community,” Mayor Spalding said.

But is it?

Some question the generous incentive package Facebook was given to expand here and question the strain it may put on infrastructure.

Rae Hederman from the Buckeye Institute, an independent think tank in Columbus, calls the deal a blank check written by taxpayers.

“Local citizens need to realize it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there are costs,” Hederman added, “Facebook simply isn’t paying the level of taxes it should be paying.”

Facebook will get a 100 percent real property tax abatement for 15 years, and a quarter million dollars in fee waivers. According to the Ohio Development Services Agency it all equates to a tax break of $37 million dollars. “Economists have looked at these kinds of deals and we call them zero sum games,” Hederman said.

Hederman believes the deal may end up hurting local businesses who don’t get tax abatements and taxes on regular people may rise to maintain services, “The bottom line is with these types of tax credits, it means the revenue that should be coming in, isn’t,” Hederman said.

Mayor Sloan Spalding argues the tax breaks are needed to incite growth and win business.

“We are not in this to break even, we are in this to generate revenue,” Spalding said of the deal.

Facebook will also fund the Licking Heights School district with $500,000 annually starting in 2019. Spalding calls the deal competitive and commits that it will make money for central Ohio.

“In my time as New Albany mayor, we have not approved an incentive package that over time does not generate revenue,” Spalding said.

Facebook’s new data center will be the size of about 15 football fields, one of the biggest in Ohio. According to city leaders it will be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.

Phase one is set to finish in 2019.

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