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Facebook chooses New Mexico for data centre


September 16, 2016
By Lindsay Whitehurst/Susan Montoya Bryan

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By Lindsay Whitehurst/Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press


Sep. 16, 2016 – Facebook has chosen a village on the edge of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area as the location for its new data centre, an announcement that spread quickly Wednesday as elected officials celebrated a hard-sought win that could have ripple effects for the state’s struggling economy.

News of the social media giant’s decision to build in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque, comes after a roller-coaster contest between New Mexico and Utah to attract the facility.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich broke the news on social media, and the rest of the congressional delegation followed minutes later. Gov. Susana Martinez in a statement welcomed what she described as a stellar, cutting-edge company. In Los Lunas, village officials were rejoicing.

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“This is huge for the state of New Mexico, for the region, for the whole Southwest. This is a big win,” said Ralph Mims, the village’s economic development director.

The courting of Facebook began more than a year ago with a meeting between the Republican governor and Facebook executives. During a visit to California, Martinez and her economic development team pitched the sparsely populated state as a good place to do business.

New Mexico wasn’t on the radar before that August 2015 meeting.

Data centres are key to the booming cloud-computing economy, but they typically bring few local jobs.

Los Lunas officials have said the centre would be a $1.8 billion construction project creating 300 direct temporary jobs and just 50 permanent jobs. That’s far fewer than the steady employment at the local Walmart distribution centre.

New Mexico officials have appeared eager to please Facebook after the state was hit hard by a downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors. Computer chip maker Intel, meanwhile, has been steadily unwinding a major manufacturing plant that was an early beneficiary of similar property tax breaks using industrial revenue bonds.

Officials hope Facebook construction will spill over into other parts of the economy, including three industrial-scale solar power plants that would be built to offset electricity consumed by the data centre.

Construction is expected to start next month, with the centre coming online in late 2018.

Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City, Utah.