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Facebook ‘likes’ Altoona

Server farm project example of D.M. metro’s eastward expansion

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:22 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:24 p.m. CST

Facebook will soon be joining fellow tech giants Microsoft and Google in calling Iowa home to one of its massive-scale server farms. 

The social networking website is behind the data center slated for construction in Altoona at a price tag of roughly $1 billion.

According to a recent report in the Des Moines Register, the facility is expected to be constructed in two $500 million phases, leading to a 1.4 million-square foot server farm upon completion. 

This server farm might signal further eastward expansion of Des Moines commerce, according to Jasper County Economic Development CEO Chaz Allen.

“We’re seeing far more development heading east rather than west out of Des Moines over the last few years,” Allen said. “As Altoona grows, what we are going to see is more growth throughout the Jasper County area.”

Allen believes that more people will utilize Jasper County communities such as Mingo, Baxter, Colfax and Prairie City as commuter towns.

“People like the atmosphere in these communities compared to living in the city, and while we haven’t seen large businesses moving in yet, I think we will experience that,” Allen said. “More rooftops is eventually going to lead to more retail opportunities.”

Allen disclosed that he had even been approached by someone looking to set up a data center in Prairie City. While the company chose not to move forward with the project, it was because they were pursuing other opportunities and not because of the location. 

Colfax, located a short 14 miles down Interstate 80 from Altoona, is perfectly situated to benefit from the new server farm and other expansions in the Altoona area, according to Julie Kern, Colfax Main Street Director.

“I think it’s likely that we’ll begin to see more businesses and service industries looking for space to lease as they realize the potential of the area,” Kern said. “Young highly-skilled professionals who work in the technology field might also be looking for places to live, and our community is ideally situated for that.”

Frank Liebl, executive director of the Newton Development Corporation, believes that the facility spells out good news for the region.

“Any time that we are able to diversify our economy by bringing in these new industries, it helps to strengthen the entire region. In Newton, over the last several years, we’ve been diversifying the types of employers we have, and we’ve seen that help the community.” Liebl said. “We’re all part of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, so we’ll all be benefitting. We’re anxious to hear more details so we can gain a better understanding of what the impact will be to the Jasper County area.”

Altoona City Administrator Jeff Mark declined to confirm the project, other than to say the city council was scheduled to meet this morning to vote on approval of a development plan. He said the developers hadn’t disclosed how many jobs may be created, and he was not at liberty to discuss any incentives Altoona offered to bring the project to the community.

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