Nebraska is a natural in several ways to host the data centers that handle large-scale information operations in the modern economy.
Nebraska has significant advantages — such as a central geographic location and a robust telecommunication infrastructure — that give it a leg up on many competing states.
Such advantages doesn’t necessarily close the deal, however.
In addition, Nebraska leaders need to be engaged, willing to work with companies to see that their specific needs are met. A growing number of major corporations, for example, require that their data centers are powered entirely by renewable energy.
All these pieces have come together impressively to clinch the agreement by which Facebook will place its first data center in Nebraska. The project, announced this week, is a major win for Nebraska and for Sarpy County.
Sarpy is building a notable reputation for its ability to host these large information-handling facilities. Yahoo, Fidelity, Cabela’s and Travelers all have operations there.
The Facebook announcement puts an exclamation point on Sarpy County’s data-center success.
Facebook’s 146-acre campus south of Papillion will provide about 1,000 temporary construction jobs and about 100 permanent positions.
A variety of Nebraska leaders stepped up to work out the details for this project, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, city and county officials and staff plus the Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation.
The Omaha Public Power District worked with Facebook to meet the company’s requirement that renewable energy supply all of the data center’s power.
This energy requirement is an increasingly common one for data centers and in the past has sometimes tripped up Nebraska’s efforts to land them. It’s encouraging that this was no obstacle for the Facebook project, thanks to OPPD’s moves to diversify its power generation.
Tim Burke, OPPD’s chief executive officer, says additional companies have expressed interest in possible expansion projects since the utility adopted a new rate structure in January allowing large electricity users to tap renewables for all of their energy needs.
The Facebook project, in other words, points to more possible development to come. It’s great to see how Nebraska’s success is building on itself when it comes to landing data centers.