Governor Branstad “likes” Facebook’s decision to locate a data center in Altoona


Governor Terry Branstad traveled to Altoona today to make the official announcement that social media giant Facebook will be building a $300 million data center in the Des Moines suburb.

Altoona Mayor Skip Conkling made the opening statement at a news conference at Altoona City Hall.

“This is a glorious day for the City of Altoona and a glorious day for the State of Iowa,” Conkling said. “Anytime that you attract and secure a business of this quality and size, it’s time for celebration.”

Conkling said the city and state negotiated with Facebook officials for roughly a year and a half without spilling news of the massive project.

“It’s no secret anymore, folks,” Conkling said to laughs from a packed city council chamber. This morning, the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Board approved $18 million in tax benefits to lure the Facebook project. Governor Terry Branstad said company officials could have selected another Midwest state to build the data center.

“The negotiations weren’t easy. They were…I would say one of the more prolonged ones I’ve been involved in,” Branstad said. “But, all’s well that ends well. We’re so excited to win a prize like this. I mean, Facebook is certainly a well-known name and is one of the exciting, modern success stories. We’re so proud they’ve chosen Altoona.”

Facebook currently has two other data server farms in the U.S. – located in Prineville, Oregon and Forest City, North Carolina. The first phase of the project in Altoona will involve a 476,000 square foot data center utilizing an outdoor-air cooling system.

Jay Parikh, vice president of infrastructure engineering for Facebook, said two more data centers could eventually be built on the 194-acre site in Altoona. He expects 31 people will be employed at the data center when the first building opens late next year or in early 2015.

Governor Branstad talks about the Facebook announcement.

“In Prineville, Oregon, we have 70 full-time workers at the data center. In Forest City (North Carolina), we have about 80 full-time Facebook employees,” Parikh said.

“I think 31 (workers in Altoona) is our minimum commitment, but if you look at the other regions, you’d probably be able to guess that we’ll go higher.”

In his closing remarks, Branstad said Facebook played a role in his decision to seek another term as governor in 2010.

“A few years ago, I was happily serving as the President of Des Moines University when it was brought to my attention that a couple of law students at Drake University started a movement on Facebook to draft me to run for governor again,” Branstad said, laughing.

“First of all, Facebook didn’t exist when I was governor before and (the Drake students) weren’t old enough to vote.” Branstad previously served as Iowa’s governor from 1983-1999. He was President at DMU from 2003-2009.

The IEDA Board today also awarded direct financial assistance and tax benefits to four other projects in Clarion, Lime Springs, Independence, and Council Bluffs. Here is more information on the IEDA’s actions today:

  • Hagie Manufacturing to expand operations in Clarion Hagie Manufacturing Company, a three-generation family business, provides innovative crop protection and application solutions out of its Clarion, Iowa location. In 1947, Ray Hagie invented the world’s first self-propelled sprayer and founded Hagie Manufacturing. Three generations, millions of acres and over 66 years later, Hagie Manufacturing Company’s innovative crop protection solutions enhance versatility, advance capability and increase efficiency, to optimize their customers’ growth. The IEDA board awarded Hagie $850,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits to expand their production capability by adding new manufacturing methods, upgrading their current production equipment and expanding meeting and training facilities. Hagie is also escalating their current research and development both in space and workforce. The project is expected to create 150 new jobs and represents a $19.5 million capital investment.
  • Lime Springs Beef, Lime Springs Lime Springs Beef (LSB) was organized as a LLC in February 2012 to capitalize on significant opportunity and demand in the food industry for local sourcing. The IEDA award will allow LSB to ensure all LSB beef products will come from animals raised by certified LSB producers whose farm is within 100 miles of the plant, with every finished product digitally tracked, processed, and ultimately labeled with the operation and farm on which the donor animal was raised. The IDEA Board awarded Lime Springs Beef $500,000 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits to expand their operations and create 50 jobs. The project represents a capital investment of $5.4 million.
  • Tyson Pet Products, Independence Tyson Pet Products produces dog treats sold under three brands at its Independence facility. The expansion of the Tyson Pet Products facility will essentially triple the production capacity of chicken jerky dog treats at this location. The IEDA Board awarded tax incentives to the project to create 133 jobs and make a capital investment of $22.9 million.
  • Project Amendment, Google to expand Council Bluffs location again The board today approved an amendment request from Google, Inc., to increase the project budget of its April 2012 High Quality Jobs award. The company is proposing to increase the investment of its previous project by $400 million. Additional tax benefits in the maximum amount of $7.2 million were awarded in the form of a refund of sales and use taxes paid during construction.