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Social media giant to invest in second multibillion data center in Morgan County

By Tia Lynn Ivey 

News editor

History often repeats itself, and that will be the case at Stanton Springs Industrial Park as Facebook is, once again, revealed to be behind a second long-term $42 billion planned investment to expand the company’s data centers at the park, in which Morgan County owns a 15 percent share.

While local leaders hoped to keep Facebook’s identity under wraps until the end of March when the deal is set to be finalized, the secret was leaked early to multiple news outlets.

In February, the Joint Development Authority (JDA), a four-county board comprised of Morgan, Jasper, Walton and Newton Counties tasked with overseeing Stanton Springs Industrial Park, approved a bond issuance in the amount of $42 billion. Back in 2018, the JDA approved another round of phantom bonds for Facebook, also in the amount of $42 billion.

Facebook’s newest project will be the first at Stanton Springs to be located in Morgan County.

“This will be the first project that will be in Morgan County proper and we look forward to working with the county in the future and seeing this project come to life,” said Alan Verner, chairman of the JDA, at the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) regular meeting last week. The JDA agreed to secure a $42 billion bond backed by the company which intends to invest that amount in developing their slice of Stanton Springs over the next 20 years. The JDA also moved forward on an approximate $38 million land sale agreement in which 628 acres will be sold to Facebook.

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Facebook is planning to develop another data center in Stanton Springs Industrial Park, in addition to the two existing data centers already on the property.

“The source confirmed the first Facebook data centers and the new project are structured under similar bond agreements. The joint development authority could support the new data centers with hundreds of millions in tax abatements,” reported Erin Schilling, a technology reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Last year, Facebook started construction to expand its Stanton Springs data center campus. That next phase was expected to involve a $1 billion investment. The expansion is set to be completed in 2023. Facebook has 17 data centers in development worldwide, a company representative told the Chronicle in September.”

The Atlanta Business Chronicle also reported on the deal’s tax structure over the next two decades and timeline for phased developments at Stanton Springs.

“For this proposed data center campus, Facebook will receive 20 years of tax abatements worth a minimum of $71 million. In exchange, the company will make annual rent payments on the project, according to the bond agreement and a chart obtained by the Business Chronicle,” reported Shilling. “That 20-year period abatement period starts by April 2027, or when the first phase of the project — a 900,000-square-foot building worth an estimated $750 million — is finished, according to the bond agreement. Each subsequent phase, estimated at $550 million, will include 400,000 square feet of additional data center space. Construction on those will trigger more tax cuts. If all phases of the project are completed, the tax break could total around $355 million, according to Shane Short, the executive director of the Walton County Development Authority.”

According to Short, during the next 20 years, Facebook will make $88 million in annual payments, even if all the planned constructed buildings are completed or not. Those payments will be distributed between the four counties and each school system based on each entity’s invested share in the industrial park.

Facebook’s new project at Stanton Springs is expected to create a minimum of 300 jobs in addition to the 1,900 jobs created by the other industries in Stanton Springs Industrial Park, including Facebook’s first development, Takeda, and the Georgia BioScience Center.

According to the JDA, the closing on the land sale at Stanton Springs will take place at the end of March, after which the JDA will release more details about the planned project and future developments.

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