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'We want to move fast': Facebook’s new data center near Papillion should be online by 2020

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As state and city leaders shared congratulatory handshakes and posed for photos with shiny blue Facebook shovels Tuesday morning, construction was already beginning on the social media giant’s new data center south of Papillion.

“We want to move fast,” said Tom Furlong, vice president of infrastructure for Facebook.

Timing is key for Facebook when it comes to site selection, Furlong said after the announcement at Papillion’s City Hall. He was joined by Gov. Pete Ricketts, Papillion Mayor David Black and other state and county leaders, who took turns standing in front of a backdrop featuring Facebook’s logo intermingled with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s “We Don’t Coast” slogan.

Nebraska leaders say the deal was years in the making.

It’s been a “big team effort,” Ricketts said during the press conference Tuesday morning.

The planned data center — Facebook’s ninth data center worldwide — is “massive,” Furlong said. It will be Facebook’s sixth data center in the United States and one of the most advanced and energy-efficient data centers in the world, he said.

The 146-acre campus will boast two 450,000-square-foot buildings at Nebraska Highway 50 and Capehart Road. The two buildings will be accompanied by a 70,000-square-foot administrative building. Construction will take about 18 months, Furlong said, and the data center is expected to be online in 2020.

“We’re terribly excited about the opportunity to have Facebook here and help us be able to grow our burgeoning data center industry here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said in a press release that landing Facebook will be vital in expanding the burgeoning Silicon Prairie, which has been a priority for his administration.

Last year, Ricketts visited with executives at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, in an effort to entice the social media giant.

Furlong said Sarpy County’s existing network of data centers helped catch Facebook’s attention. Yahoo, Fidelity, Cabela’s and Travelers already operate data centers in the county. Locating near other data centers creates an ideal ecosystem for tech companies to thrive, he said.

A deal with the Omaha Public Power District that will allow Facebook to power the facility solely through wind-generated electricity was also key, he said. Facebook has a goal of using 50 percent clean and renewable energy in its electricity supply mix for data centers in 2018.

Facebook data centers of this size usually bring about 1,000 temporary construction jobs and about 100 permanent jobs, said Lindsay Amos, a Facebook spokeswoman. Although Facebook does use some of its own contractors, construction labor will be mostly local. The company declined to discuss salaries for its permanent employees.

Once it’s online, the data center will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Papillion Mayor David Black said the Facebook campus, which is outside city limits but in Papillion’s zoning jurisdiction, would lead to infrastructure improvements that he believes will spur economic growth in the rural area of the county.

Capehart Road will be paved for the project, which will improve accessibility to the area, Black said.

The data center will also get its own sewage lift station. Facebook's connection fee will help pay for it to be installed. 

Using the codename Project Raven, Facebook has already gone through multiple layers of approval from Papillion as well as finalized land negotiations. Property owners weren’t told in advance who was buying their land.

The Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, which is part of the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership, represented Facebook in the approvals process. Andrew Rainbolt, executive director of the economic development corporation, said he’s been working on the project since January 2016.

The Papillion site will be Facebook’s first location in Nebraska. Organizers are not seeking tax-increment financing for the project.

Facebook currently has data centers in Prineville, Oregon; Forest City, North Carolina; Lulea, Sweden; and Altoona, Iowa. Construction on additional data centers is underway in Fort Worth, Texas; Clonee, Ireland; Los Lunas, New Mexico; and Odense, Denmark., 402-444-1216

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