October 21, 2014

Nebraska not discouraged by loss of Facebook to Iowa (AUDIO)

Nebraska officials say they are disappointed, but not discouraged that the state failed to land a $300 million data center.

Facebook has announced it will locate the data center in Altoona, a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa.

“Are we disappointed at being second? Sure, we are,” says Kearney City Councilmember Bruce Lear. “But, at the same time, we got to learn a lot about proposing this kind of project, putting together the data and resources that were necessary to make this kind of project happen.”

State economic development officials teamed up with Kearney officials nearly four years ago to begin developing Tech One Crossing, a development park specifically targeting technology firms.

The legislature also approved a package of incentives to lure “project edge” to Nebraska. The announcement by Facebook unveiled the business Nebraska courted.

State Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney sponsored the bill offering tax breaks for Facebook. Hadley says he’ll be talking with economic development officials about how to win the next big project.

“So, we’re constantly trying to tweak our economic development package to be competitive,” Hadley tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Hadley acknowledges it is difficult to come so close.

“Oh, I’m disappointed, but you know I think economic development is a little bit like life; sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But if you gave it the best try you could you go on and you try to get the next firm that’s coming in,” Hadley says.

Hadley believes Nebraska’s incentive package was comparable to Iowa’s. Iowa offered a total of $18 million in incentives to Facebook.

It might not have been the financial offers that tipped the scale.

Hadley says he has heard that Facebook chose Iowa, because Des Moines offers better air transportation that Kearney.

Buffalo County Economic Development Director Darren Robinson says Kearney will continue to aggressively court high-tech companies to locate in Tech One Crossing.

“Considering where we’re at today and you’ve had one of the largest data center companies come take a look at Kearney, pretty successful so far,” according to Robinson. “We’re not going to stop. Today isn’t the end. This is the beginning of the next phase.”

Kearney has spent $2 million and cleared a 165-acre site for the Tech One Crossing Park.

Tyson Havranek, KXPN, contributed to this report.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]