Climate controlled compartments in a data center.
North Platte made the short list but appears to have fallen by the wayside in a pitched battle to attract a $1.2 billion data center business.
Kearney, Neb. and Des Moines, Iowa are still competing for the data center, which would receive and store computer data far into the electronic age, the Des Moines Register reported April 28.
The as-yet-unnamed company wants to build a huge complex to store computer data for people and companies around the world.
The process is often called “cloud” technology, whereby companies keep records and archives on computer chips in centers that can be located most anywhere and accessed via the world wide web.
Consumers also increasingly download music, movies and books from data centers, plus connect with others on facebook and other social media.
On May 8, the Kearney City Council okayed changes in a state grant to assist in the purchase of a 53-acre tract in northeast Kearney, making Kearney’s "Tech oNE Crossing" technology park 165 acres in size, according to the The Kearney Hub.
North Platte was high in the running for the billion-dollar data center, but appears now to be third or fourth choice behind Kearney and Des Moines.
The center could have been located in North Platte’s south industrial park, in the general area of Cabela’s call center.
Local officials won’t talk openly about the deal, citing confidentiality agreements, but the city council recently annexed the land. Word officially leaked to the public April 30 during a candidate’s forum.
Mayoral candidate Jerry Stoll used it as an example of North Platte’s potential.
Stoll said the company nearly picked North Platte out of all the places in the world, showing North Platte attractiveness to expanding companies, despite residents’ criticisms of property tax rates they think are too high.
Stoll said North Platte officials should find a data company whose CEO loves to hunt and fish.
No taxes, lower electricity
Iowa is well known for offering business incentives and attracting big companies. Google built a data center and plans to build another soon in Council Bluffs. The second one was announced April 28. Together the two are valued at $900 million.
In Nebraska, Yahoo! opened a $100 million data center in La Vista, outside Omaha, in 2010.
Both Nebraska and Iowa have relatively low cost electricity, thanks to publicly owned power companies. That’s attractive, because data centers use enough electricity to power 5,000 homes, the Register said.
And both states offer big tax breaks to growing companies, hoping to capitalize on the construction boom, while offering long-term property tax cuts and discounts on electricity.
Companies like Google and Microsoft pay no sales tax on equipment and computer purchases, and pay no property tax on equipment or computers, the Register reported.
The Nebraska Legislature recently enacted more incentives to “help entice the billion-dollar data center to Nebraska,” Sen. Tom Hansen said in his final report to the news media and constituents.
The incentives are:
• LB 1118 – adds more incentives to the Nebraska Advantage Act specifically for data center projects that will invest $200 million and hire at least 30 new employees.
• LB 1043 allows public power companies to negotiate electric rates that are below the retail rate.
For instance, NPPD could give a 20-30 percent discount to large expanding data centers for five years, the Des Moines Register said.
Hansen said the Nebraska Legislature also exempted sales and use taxes for biochips this year in LB 830.
This report was first published in the May 2 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin.