Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe confirmed that social media behemoth Facebook is due to invest more than $1 billion in a giant new data center in the heart of Henrico County. As part of its plans to expand its data footprint across the United States, improving services to users in the process, Mr McAuliffe confirmed that Facebook intends to build a new state-of-the-art $750 million site, followed by an additional $250 million investment in solar-powered facilities to make the new data center entirely sustainable, powered by clean and renewable energy.
Introducing Project Echo
The project will be housed in the same technology site as the one that already houses an immense QTS data center. Code-named ‘Project Echo’, Facebook hopes this will be the first of several construction phases at the White Oak Technology Park. A recent article from DataCenter Knowledge suggests plans are afoot to build three additional data centers, comprising 1.5 million square feet, in the years to come. McAuliffe said in a recent statement that he was “proud to welcome Facebook to Henrico County” and hoped it would lead to the start of “a strong partnership” between the tech giant and the state of Virginia.
The state’s authorities anticipate that the entirety of Project Echo will bring 100 “full-time” operational positions, whilst creating short-term construction work for thousands of Virginians. It is no coincidence that Facebook have been attracted to the state following recent tax breaks on computers and data center equipment, designed to attract such construction. It is said that Henrico County slashed its tax rates on computers and data center equipment by as much as 87%, down from $3.50 per $100 of assessed value to just $0.40 per $100. CNN Tech believes Facebook could save as much as $19 million in tax exemptions by 2035, through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
In terms of strategic placement, Facebook’s decision to set up a data center in Henrico County could also be attributed to Richmond’s location just 100 miles north-east of Virginia Beach. This area is home to the new US-European submarine cable established by Facebook, Telxius and Microsoft. The cable is designed to transmit up to 160 terabits per second, making ‘Marea’ the highest load-bearing transatlantic data cable in history, crossing from the US to Bilbao in Spain.
The Facebook empire continues to grow
2018 looks like being an exciting year for Facebook in terms of enhancing its data center presence across the US and beyond. Plans are afoot to also bring data centers to Nebraska and Ohio, as well as overseas in Odense, Denmark. The company also submitted plans to enhance its existing data center campus in Texas and another data center in Altoona, Iowa. Facebook’s presence in the Swedish steel-mining town of Lulea has helped radically transform the town’s identity into a 21st century tech hot-spot. Facebook’s investment in the area has reached almost $1 billion according to Reuters. Lulea’s specialization in data centers and energy-intensive industries has led to a host of other global brands basing themselves in the area too, including German vehicle manufacturer BMW.
There’s no doubt that Facebook has endured a rocky period following the fall-out of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the UK. The company’s value plunged by $58 billion in March 2018 since the issue reached the news wires, wiping out almost one-fifth (18%) of the company’s overall value. Nevertheless, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg has proven himself to be a canny individual on so many levels. It was a rapid rise to fame and fortune for Zuckerberg, who turned his first million dollars into his first billion bucks in just 12 months according to Betway. Zuckerberg was forced to stand up and face the music in front of the US Congress in April, defending Facebook’s privacy laws. Zuckerberg performed better than expected in court and it was his reassurance of the brand’s transparency and desire to learn from its mistake which saw the company regain $21 billion of its value within 24 hours – its single biggest one-day gain in more than two years said Fortune.
Facebook are clearly committed to turning a corner and using their standing in the world of tech to create safer places for people to engage online. In April, Facebook launched its first internal enforcement guidelines, demonstrating the content topics that people can and can’t discuss on their platform, helping individuals to know where to draw the line. It has also endorsed and implemented disclosure requirements detailed in the Honest Ads Act, designed to bring future transparency and accountability to online advertisements from political parties. Facebook remains a vital cog in 21st-century commerce, both in terms of creating profitable online communities and experiences and in terms of regenerating local communities and delivering cleaner, renewable energy supplies to maintain the world’s ever-growing computing power.