Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Facebook looking at North Fort Worth for huge data center



A project worth nearly $1 billion that’s in the works for North Fort Worth hopes to lure social media giant Facebook to Texas.
Fort Worth has already approved financial incentives for the 110-acre data center project planned near Interstate 35W in the AllianceTexas development.
Plans filed with the city call for a four-building complex at the northeast corner of Alliance Gateway and Park Vista Boulevard, east of Alliance Airport.
Developers of the project and Fort Worth have closely guarded who will use the 750,000-square-foot data center, which would be one of North Texas’ largest such projects.
But documents filed with the state of Texas and the identity of the planning team working on the project indicate it’s for California-based Facebook.
Facebook, which has more than 1.4 billion online users, already has data centers in Oregon, North Carolina and Iowa.
Its $300 million, 476,000-square-foot facility northeast of Des Moines, Iowa, opened just last year. Facebook is already adding to the complex.
The project planned for North Fort Worth would start out with a 250,000-square-foot building and would be tripled in size over time.
The City Council voted Tuesday to provide economic incentives for the project. And the Northwest Independent School District is also working on tax abatements to support the huge development.
The architect and engineering firm identified on the team for the North Fort Worth data center are the same companies that did Facebook’s new Iowa facility.
And the Seattle law firm listed as representing the company in documents filed with the state of Texas also works for Facebook.
Media representatives with Facebook on Thursday were unable to provide confirmation or details about the potential Texas data center project.
Fort Worth officials have signed confidentiality agreements regarding the project.
Texas is competing with other states to land the project, according to the request for the property tax abatements.
Facebook is adding to its data center capacity as the company’s business grows. The social media company also has a facility in Sweden and is reported to be looking at a location in Ireland.
The facilities house the computer servers and related telecommunications gear necessary for Facebook to operate its international online service.
The buildings have major electric utility requirements and need substantial cooling systems to handle the Internet traffic and data storage. They also have to be built to survive natural catastrophes.
North Texas is already a key market for data center operators and users.
Landing the Facebook facility would be the Internet equivalent of luring a new auto plant.
“Dallas-Fort Worth has become the third largest data center market in the world,” said Curt Holcomb, executive vice president with commercial real estate firm JLL. “For the same reason you have all these people moving their headquarters and offices here ... the data centers are coming here.”
Holcomb said North Texas’ location in the center of the country and fast growing populations in the state are reasons for big companies to locate data storage facilities in this area.
“The low-cost energy market here is another factor,” said Holcomb, who specializes in data center development consulting. “We also have a large talent pool these companies can draw from.”
Because these buildings house mostly equipment, the projects don’t bring a large number of jobs.
The data center in the works for North Fort Worth is projected to have about 40 workers. And Facebook’s new complex outside Des Moines employs only about 75.
“There are municipalities and states that have figured out that just because it’s not a lot of people, it’s still important,” Holcomb said. “Along with the real estate, there is an even bigger investment in the hardware and software in these buildings.”
Holcomb said Texas passed legislation two years ago to offer more incentives to attract new data centers. And current legislation working its way through Austin would sweeten that deal.
“That is going to make Texas even more competitive,” he said.
Unlike Toyota’s headquarters move to Plano or a major manufacturing plant development, data centers and their corporate users don’t attract much attention.
Companies that use these facilities like it that way, Holcomb said.
“Nobody wants anybody to know where their data centers are,” he said. “They are critical facilities with the company jewels in them.
“They go through hoops to provide security.”
The Fort Worth project is being fronted by a company called Winner LLC.
David Liggitt, who heads a Dallas consulting firm called Datacenter Hawk, said he isn’t surprised that the development planned in Fort Worth is being kept under wraps.
“Confidentiality is a big part of the data center business,” Liggitt said. “Companies want to remain off the radar when they are planning their critical facilities.
“Dallas is a pretty compelling market for these companies.”
Steve Brown/Dallas Morning News