NC Town Raises Offer for Apple Data Center Site

By Park Sae-jin Posted : July 7, 2009, 18:27 Updated : July 7, 2009, 18:27

This file photo shows Apple Inc. headquarters's street sign in Silicon Valley.

A North Carolina community battered by manufacturing layoffs raised the offer for Apple Inc. to open its East Coast data center just 30 miles down the road from a similar Google Inc. server farm that opened last year.

Catawba County and the town of Maiden agreed Monday to a package of local incentives aimed at luring Apple and cutting into the 15 percent unemployment rate. The state last month changed its tax calculations to land Apple's $1 billion data center, giving the company a tax break estimated at $46 million in the next decade.

The local governments have promised another $20.7 million over 10 years after the facility that could spread over 500,000 square feet or more is operational, said Scott Millar, president of the Catawba County Economic Development Corp., which led the local efforts. The county and town expect to collect about $9.3 million in new tax income over the same period, he said.

While the data center is only expected to employ about 50 full-time workers, promoters emphasize that the infusion of economic activity would mean work for local security, janitorial and repair service companies.

Apple spokeswoman Susan Lundgren declined comment on the company's siting decision.

Apple would likely use the data center to add capacity to store and move music, video and movies purchased through its iTunes Web site and its MobileMe service, which allows a user to synchronize desktop computers with other personal data devices, Millar said. Lundgren declined comment.

Maiden is a town of some 3,300 about 30 miles northwest of Charlotte. The town is part of the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton metropolitan area, which the U.S. Labor Department last week reported had one of the country's sharpest increases in unemployment in the country. The area's joblessness gained 8.5 percentage points in the year ending in May to reach 15.4 percent.

Local economic developers targeted the information technology sector and data centers specifically as a likely source of jobs. County and municipal tax revenues have been spent to develop a 180-acre business park with backup electricity, water and fiber-optic cable supplies. Data centers are heavy users of all three utilities.

Google Inc. opened a similar data center last year only about 30 miles away along in the western North Carolina foothills. In 2007, state and local governments offered Google an incentives package worth up to $260 million over 30 years, one of the largest in state history, to land the $600 million data complex at a site near Lenoir in Caldwell County.

Having two data centers - basically vast collections of servers able to process tremendous amounts of data traffic - so close to each other could serve as the foundation for more to come, Millar said.

"We're trying to develop an IT corridor right now," he said.

By Emery P. Dalesio (AP)

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