Face­book triples size of Los Lunas site

Gov­er­nor, mayor, so­cial me­dia gi­ant tout jobs, ben­e­fits of $1B project

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Bruce Kras­now

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.

PHO­TOS BY JUAN ANTONIO LEBRECHE/FOR THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

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, 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.

JUAN ANTONIO LEBRECHE/FOR THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

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.

BRUCE KRAS­NOW/THE NEW MEX­I­CAN

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.

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