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Facebook to open 10th data centre in Ohio in boost to state’s tech sector

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 3:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 3:09am

Facebook will spend US$750 million on a new data centre in central Ohio in another boost for the state’s growing technology sector, the company announced on Tuesday.

The world’s biggest social media company joined Republican Governor John Kasich and a host of other dignitaries to announce its 10th data centre will be in New Albany, just northeast of Columbus.

The 22-acre (8.9-hectare) data centre will be powered exclusively with renewable energy. It is expected to employ 100 people to start and to begin providing services in 2019.

Rachel Peterson, the company’s director of data centre strategy and development, said several factors attracted Facebook to the location, including fibre and power infrastructure, government support, livability and the availability of high-tech talent.

“We look at that community fit and how we’re going to live and work in a community,” she said. “We not only live there. We work there, too. We hire there locally. So we want to make sure there’s a strong fit.”

She said the availability of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and hydro, was critical to the decision, a factor underlined by Kasich, who has pushed back against legislative efforts to turn back the state’s alternative energy requirements.

“It is critical that we continue developing the renewables, because, believe me, at the end of the day, if the Facebooks and the Googles and the PayPals and the Amazons think that we are not committed to renewable energy, they will not come here. Period, end of story,” he said.

Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has been adding data centres in the US and internationally to handle the growing number of photos, videos and additional digital content it must process from its 2 billion users. The Ohio project was code-named Sidecat as it moved through the successful application process for US$37 million in state tax incentives.

US Representative Pat Tiberi, whose district will house the facility, said it’s “incredibly important.”

“It continues to show not just the Silicon Valley, but job creators all over the country, that, hey, you know what, something must be happening in Ohio,” the Republican congressman said, noting the hope that a synergy is beginning to build.

Amazon opened three cloud-computing data centre sites in central Ohio last year. The company invested about US$1 billion in centres in New Albany and two other Columbus suburbs, Dublin and Hilliard.

Kasich said Tuesday’s announcement shows Ohio is diversifying its economy beyond its heavy reliance on manufacturing. He hopes the growing number of tech jobs entice younger workers to move to or remain in Ohio, whose population growth has stagnated as average ages rise.

“Ohio has it all,” Kasich said. “You’ve got the cool factor. You’ve got exciting companies. You’ve got the lower cost of living.”

He noted other recent technology investments in the state, including by Explorys, IBM Analytics and Teradata. Cologix, a Denver-based date company, also plans a US$130 million data centre on its Columbus campus.