Apple picks N.C. for $1B data center

Tax breaks could total $300 million for 50-employee server farm in North Carolina

Apple will spend $1 billion building a major data center in North Carolina, the state's governor announced yesterday after signing a bill that will give Apple an estimated $46 million in tax breaks over the next 10 years.

The company could save more than $300 million in state income taxes if the data center is in place for 30 years.

Although Apple confirmed that it has chosen North Carolina as the location for the data center, it has not yet disclosed the site. The company did not reply to questions about the location of the center and its intended purpose.

The data center will employ at least 50 full-time employees once it's built out to its full capacity over the next nine years, and create an additional estimated 250 local jobs for outside contractors for such things as security, landscaping and maintenance, Governor Bev Perdue said yesterday.

"We welcome Apple to North Carolina and look forward to working with the company as it begins providing a significant economic boost to local communities and the state," Perdue said in a statement.

The state's commerce department estimated that the data center would create 3,000 regional jobs when everything, including the construction of the center, is factored in.

Earlier in the week, the state's legislature had passed a specially-crafted tax incentive bill that changed the way state corporate income taxes are calculated for a capital-intensive operation. Although Apple was not named in the bill, it was widely rumored in the last few weeks to be the target of the measure, which was written in such a way that Apple was one of the few companies eligible for the tax breaks.

According to the bill, Apple must meet wage standards for the center's jobs, provide employees with health insurance and build the facility in an economically-distressed county. The last requirement has fueled speculation that Catawba and Cleveland counties are the leading candidates to land the project, according to reports on several North Carolina newspapers' Web sites.

Catawba County, which is northwest of Charlotte, the state's largest city, has the edge over Cleveland County, directly west of Charlotte, said the Charlotte Observer today.

Opponents of the bill have blasted the preferential treatment during a time when the state faces a $4.5 billion budget shortfall. An earlier incentives package made to Google, which built a data center in Caldwell County in 2007, has been challenged in court. The $600 million Google data center is located in Lenoir, North Carolina, which is just 32 miles from the Catawba County locale predicted for Apple's facility, and 61 miles from a potential location in Cleveland County.

"Technology-driven projects like this may bring fewer overall jobs than traditional industry, but they have a tremendous economic impact through locally purchased goods and services," Keith Crisco, the state's commerce secretary, said in a statement.

Apple has not said what the center will be used for, but a similar server farm just south of San Francisco hosts iTunes content and the MobileMe online sync and storage service.

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