April 20, 2013
Google’s announcement Friday that it will spend $600 million to expand its data center in Lenoir excited Gov. Pat McCrory.
“I like company expansion better than new startups,” McCrory said. “Expansion gives confidence to other businesses that they made the right decisions to locate in an area. It gives confidence in an area and confirms the investments are solid.”
He said Google’s additional investment shows the company is convinced it’s in the right place, and the announcement will help many businesses in the Lenoir area and assist with more economic development.
“This is a shot in the arm for everyone,” McCrory said, emphasizing that he’s high on new industry and its critical importance to North Carolina. “Expansion tells everybody they were right,” he said.
The $600 million expansion brings Google’s total investment in the Lenoir data center to $1.2 billion.
“It’s been more than six years since we broke ground,” said Enoch Moeller, the data center manager. “North Carolina and the Lenoir community are great places in which to work and grow.” He said the data center demonstrates Google’s long-term commitment to Caldwell County and the local community.
Google employs 150 people at the center. This is the site’s second expansion. In 2010, Google built another data center.
Before the groundbreaking ceremony, McCrory chose to focus on Google employee Paul Bowman, a Caldwell County native who started out in furniture manufacturing. The governor said Bowman knew he needed to upgrade his education and did so through the community college system. His certification in information technology led to a job with Google and a good life for his family.
“This is about the employees,” McCrory said. “It comes down to the individual families and quality of life. It’s a boost of confidence for the community.”
Friday’s gathering unveiled a second initiative that could have statewide impact. Duke Energy will go before the N.C. Utilities Commission and ask for a special rate structure for businesses that buy electricity generated from renewable resources. Google has committed to the “green energy” venture and to use as much renewable-resource power as possible.
“This is a great day for Duke,” said Paul Newton, state president of Duke Energy North Carolina. “By participating (in the initiative) Google will again lead the way … thinking about the future.”
Jeff Brooks, media spokesman for Duke, said the special rate structure is still being development. It is designed to help Google and other program participants offset electricity costs and propel interest and investment in new power generation.
Brooks said any qualified electricity producer can sell power to Duke.
Businesses that want to use non-traditional sources of electricity should lead to more renewable energy development such as solar power,” Brooks said.
Excitement ruled the day at Google.
“This is a great day,” said Jeff Branch, chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners. “The expansion of a global company … is an example of the restructuring of Caldwell County’s economy. Google … is a key to our economic future.” U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows agreed. “Google is helping make the transition from the old economy to the new economy,” he said.
T.J. Rohr, Lenoir mayor pro tem, called Google “a tremendous advantage” for Lenoir and the county. He said Google’s presence shows young people they can pursue a high-tech career and remain in Caldwell.
Google’s presence also builds the reputation for all of Western North Carolina as a data corridor,” said Deborah Murray, executive director of Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. She said lots of people have worked hard to prove North Carolina is a place where data centers and high-tech businesses want to locate.
State Sen. Dan Soucek put Google and the Lenoir area’s reach into perspective. “Google affects the lives of tens of millions of families around the world, and hundreds of families right here in Caldwell County.”
After the ceremonial groundbreaking, Branch said Google will not receive any new incentives with the new investment. “It’s going to be the same as it was at first,” he said.
The linchpin of the startup incentive was the property tax deal between Google and Lenoir and Caldwell County. Google pays its property tax bill on time at the first of January. But six months later, the local governments send a potion of the payment back to Google.
In the interim, local government uses the money to generate revenue.
And there are the permanent jobs and services the company generates.
Moeller said the data center was built with a mix of local and non-local contractors. All contractors were from North Carolina, he said. And now, more construction money will be spent and more jobs created.
“Google is part of our vocabulary,” said NC Rep. Edgar Starnes, a legislative veteran who serves Caldwell County. “Google is an action verb.”
Google’s immediate participation is one reason Duke Energy is in eager pursuit of a special rate structure to present to the state utilities commission. According to information from Google, the company’s data centers consume 50 percent less energy than the typical data center. In 2007, Google made a voluntary commitment to become carbon neutral – meaning the company aims to wean itself from electricity produced by coal, oil and gas.
Google has long-term agreements to buy power directly from wind farm developers. The company has earmarked $1 billion for renewable energy investments that can produce enough electricity to power 500,000 American homes.
The governor’s reaction to the Duke-Google announcement: “We want renewable resources and to keep energy costs low. It’s an extra benefit for industry and North Carolina. It’s a great energy plan.”
By Larry Clark, Hickory Daily Record