Facebook triples size of Los Lunas site
Governor, mayor, social media giant tout jobs, benefits of $1B project
Facebook executives announced Tuesday that the social media giant has decided to expand its complex here, converting a rural mesa into a home to one of the world’s largest data-storage centers.
The work will mean a total of six buildings, each the length of four football fields, and enough construction to keep 800 to 1,000 workers a day employed through 2023.
It was just a year ago when the social media company announced it had chosen Los Lunas as a site for one of its seven data centers, with plans to build one or two buildings that could be up and running by the end of 2018 with some 100 full-time Facebook workers.
But the announcement Tuesday to triple the size of the complex means Facebook will have 2.8 million square feet of interior space powered by a solar energy grid. The fiber-optic line stretches 350 miles into Texas along state Department of Transportation corridors.
With a total construction cost of over $1 billion, the Facebook project is the most spent in a single location in New Mexico since the construction of the Intel microchip-processing plant in Rio Rancho 37 years ago, according to one economic development official.
“We’re creating one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world right here in the village of Los Lunas,” KC Timmons, head of data-center operations for Facebook, said at an event with elected officials, company executives and the media.
The first data-center building is expected to be operating by the end of 2018.
But Darren Daskarolis, senior director of global construction for Facebook, said the six-year timeline for the expanded campus is a game-changer for contractors who can now promise new hires steady work and career advancement.
“A six-year job allows someone to come in as an apprentice and leave a trained engineer,” Daskarolis said. “It means new careers in New Mexico.”
One of those working on the Facebook site Tuesday was Adina
Trujillo, a Santa Fe native who worked as a server at both Denny’s and IHOP in Santa Fe before landing a job with Ames Construction, a Utah-based subcontractor that does grading, excavation and backfilling work.
Now, she earns $17 an hour and she and her boyfriend, also on a construction crew, are planning to look for a house in Los Lunas.
Janelle Schreier-Kennard, was a carpenter who worked on a job at Valley High School in Albuquerque but was laid off when that ended last year. Unemployed for six months, she thought about leaving the state before getting hired at the Facebook site in February for $17 an hour.
“Facebook has been my oasis in the desert,” she said. “I was questioning my future in New Mexico.”
Gary Tonjes, director of Albuquerque Economic Development, said the $1 billion that Facebook plans to spend would be equal to all the dollars spent on residential and commercial construction in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho over the past 10 years.
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who has led the charge to reduce the corporate tax rate in the state, said the expansion is a testament to the fruits of that effort.
She said making New Mexico more competitive will diversify the state, protecting it from “the dysfunction of the federal government,” the largest employer in the state, and the volatility of the boom-and-bust energy sector.
“We have to keep making our state more competitive,” she said.
Likewise, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, said it’s refreshing to see large construction cranes when heading south from Albuquerque on Interstate 25.
“This is economic diversification in action,” he said.
Facebook’s decision to locate in New Mexico came after Martinez visited executives in California and promised to help with economic incentives, including a solar-power grid, a $10 million state grant from the Economic Development Act and $3 million in job training money.
Another incentive was the promise by the village of Los Lunas for up to $30 billion in Industrial Revenue Bonds sold in phases to help offset the costs of developing the 300-acre site.
The bonds are to be repaid by the company with its own revenue, but that also means that Facebook, one of the most valuable publicly traded companies with a market capitalization of $517.4 billion, won’t have to pay any property taxes on the land or its equipment.
Still, Los Lunas officials could not be happier and point to an increase in gross receipts taxes of 65 percent so far this year, a boost of some $2 million, said Ralph Mims, director of economic development for the village.
Mims said the increase is allowing Los Lunas to give village employees a costof-living increase for the first time in three years and fill 16 new positions.
Tonjes said other firms have specifically mentioned the Facebook expansion as they consider expansion or moving to the state.
“They have specifically cited Facebook’s decision to invest,” he said.
The number of permanent jobs after construction ends is still unknown.
But company managers said the norm is 100 employees for every two data center buildings, so that means some 300 permanent technicians, electricians and maintenance workers in Los Lunas.
But operations manager Timmons said the company has never had six buildings in one location, and that will likely mean the need for more on-site staff as well as ongoing construction and upkeep beyond 2023.
Village Mayor Charlie Griego said it wasn’t that long ago when his father and others were herding sheep on the mesa where Facebook is now managing the massive construction project.
“He would be glad to know there are others working there today,” Griego said.
A building is under construction Tuesday at the Facebook data center site in Los Lunas. The social media giant announced that it is tripling the size of the site to six buildings that are expected to be built over the next six years.
Reginald McKnight, left, and Darin Daskarolis, right, both of Facebook, walk with Gov. Susana Martinez on the Facebook data center grounds Tuesday in Los Lunas. Martinez said making New Mexico more competitive will diversify the state’s economic base,...
One of the buildings under construction Tuesday at the Facebook data center site in Los Lunas. The first of six planned data center buildings is expected to be operating by the end of 2018.
Adina Trujillo was working as a server at Denny’s and IHOP in Santa Fe before getting hired by a Facebook subcontractor to work at the Los Lunas construction site.