Utah jumps back into race to attract Facebook data center

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Salt Lake City suburb vying against a New Mexico town to attract a Facebook data center said Wednesday it's restarting negotiations with the company a day after the deal broke down over a contentious $240 million tax-break package.

The company is still interested in coming to West Jordan and the city thinks the opportunity is too good to pass up, so they're starting fresh, officials said.

"The players are very much interested in keeping it alive," said West Jordan spokeswoman Kim Wells.

A primary critic of the deal, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, said he's hoping the negotiation process will be transparent this time around.

"We don't need to give up the farm in order to bring jobs," he said.

Facebook is also considering building the facility in Los Lunas, New Mexico. On Tuesday West Jordan officials announced they were pulling out of talks because they couldn't compete with a generous offer from the town located south of Albuquerque.

The New Mexico offer would cancel all property taxes for 30 years in exchange for a $50,000-a-year payment that more than doubles with each major expansion of the facility.

The Utah decision to pull out came after the state school board decided the deal on the table was too rich, adding their voices to a growing chorus of questions about the tax breaks.

Utah critics argue the cost is too high for a facility that would create just 70 to 100 jobs paying an average annual salary of about $53,000, on a piece of land prime for other development. Supporters said the data center would carry a high-tech cache that could draw other tech companies.

Exactly how talks will unfold and what incentives might be in play now isn't clear.

"Negotiations are back to square one now," Wells said.

Many of those who questioned the proposed tax-break package said they'd nevertheless welcome Facebook to the state under different terms.

Utah is also home to other data centers, including a massive storage facility built by the National Security Agency.

Data centers are usually large facilities that house long rows of servers and hard drives storing and processing vast quantities of highly secure information powering everything from online shopping to streaming movies.

While they're an increasingly key part of the global economy, they generally don't require many people on the ground to keep them running.


Associated Press reporters Michelle Price in Salt Lake City and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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