PHOTO: Photo from the groundbreaking on Monday at Google’s new data center in Bridgeport! (Contributed Photo)
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
BRIDGEPORT, Ala. — On Monday, Google broke ground on a new facility right here in our backyard!
Governor Kay Ivey, Representative Tommy Hanes, Senator Steve Livingston, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Ritchie Whorton, and Jackson County Officials along with representatives from Google attended the groundbreaking ceremony in Bridgeport, Alabama at the construction site on Jackson County Road 96.
The new facility will be part of a network that helps run Google services like YouTube and Google Drive; with the later being used by millions of businesses worldwide.
We caught up with Senator Steve Livingston (R - Scottsboro) this week to discuss the economic impact the new data center could have on Jackson County and Northeast Alabama as a whole. Livingston represents much of DeKalb and Jackson Counties, and was near the process to bring the tech giant to Northeast Alabama.
When I asked how many people the new data center is expected to employ, Sen. Livingston said, "They are expecting to provide 75 to 100 new jobs to the immediate area."
I asked if Google had invested into local education, Livingston said, "To date, they have invested $250,000 in local schools. At the announcement this week alone they presented a check for $100,ooo.00 to the Jackson County Board of Education for the local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Program."
Livingston also related that the economic impact would not be limited to only those employed at Google. When asked how he expected this might affect in the Jackson County economy, he said explained that, "for every direct job you generate, it's estimated that it creates two to four ancillary jobs."
'Ancillary' jobs means indirect jobs created. For example, if one person in the area gets a job with improved income at the new facility, that person will spend more money on goods and services in the area. A new facility will also have to contract with area companies as well for routine things such as cleaning, office supplies, etc. This added revenue for businesses in the surrounding area leads to more indirect jobs being created.
"Some people even use numbers closer to five ancillary jobs per every job created. That could mean anywhere between 200 additional jobs created and 500," Livingston said. "They are partnering with TVA for green energy onsite, so that will also benefit another area employer."
Livingston was also asked about the incentives it took to bring in a big name like Google, "I'm not familiar with the particular tax incentives in place for this facility, but we have a tax incentives for data centers that were utilized, along with industrial access grants in place.
He also said that Alabama's business climate in general helped bring in the new facility and jobs: "In the 2015 legislative session, we passed 3 bills of economic incentives to make this happen. We try to make it easier for businesses to do business here in Alabama."
When a new business comes in they also want to ensure that the educational institutions in an area are ready to provide new labor. "Locally, right after Google's announcement, myself and Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter were able start a HVAC training program at Northeast Alabama Community College for data servers," he said.
Large data servers such as the type Google will be utilizing require extensive air conditioning systems to ensure the systems do not overheat. "So, we'll have new employees ready and trained to fill their needs. It's a way to help foster the environment locally," Livingston added.
He also explained how the new facility may provide for more facilities to move into the area: "When we talked to the Alabama Department of Commerce, they explained that data centers always follow data centers; meaning that when one moves to an area, with a big name such as Google, it makes it more attractive for other companies to follow suit."
"We would hope there would be a continuation," he said. "Google has found a place that is environmentally friendly and business friendly. It's much like how if a new AutoZone opens in a particular area, O'Reilly's and other auto parts stores will also open locations there; they all follow each other."
He also explained that Google has been secretive about future plans for the site, and he expects that they may be building new facilities in addition to the new data center.
"Google refers to the site as a 'campus' and the property is about 500 acres, so we might anticipate there may be more construction here in the future; bringing in even more jobs and opportunity to Jackson County and Alabama as a whole," said Livingston.
"It's like Congressman Brooks said, Google is used 3.5 billion times a day, all over the world. If a person in London checks his business account online through Google, it goes to Bridgeport, Alabama first," concluded Livingston.