Facebook's Gallatin Data Center

Facebook plans to build a 982,000-square-foot data center on approximately 809 acres located off Hartsville Pike between Roundtree Drive and Brights Lane in Gallatin. SUBMITTED

Facebook will build an $800 million state-of-the-art data center in Gallatin, the global social media technology company announced Wednesday.

Construction has already begun on the 982,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on approximately 809 acres located between Roundtree Drive and Brights Lane that the company purchased for nearly $20 million earlier this year under the name Woolhawk LLC.

The announcement represents the culmination of a three-year recruitment effort by the Gallatin Economic Development Agency (EDA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD).

While there were several other locations and at least one other finalist being considered for the project, Gallatin was chosen because of its “terrific infrastructure, talented workforce and the spirit of partnership the community offered,” according to Rachel Peterson, vice president of data center strategy for Facebook.

“We take a pretty wide look at many locations across the world and across the U.S. when selecting our data center communities,” Peterson told the Gallatin News. “We make a significant effort and investment in the people, the communities and putting the state-of-the-art technology in these facilities.

“We’re really committed to playing a strong role in the community and we’re excited to get started on the next phase of this chapter with Facebook and Gallatin.”

Work on the project is expected to continue through 2023 and will involve more than 1,100 construction workers on site at its peak.

Once operational, the facility will be staffed by approximately 100 employees ranging from technical operations, electricians, logistics staff, security and more.

The Facebook Gallatin Data Center will be among the most advanced, energy and water efficient data centers in the world, according to officials. It will be supported by 100 percent renewable energy, use 80 percent less water than the average facility and will be LEED Gold certified once completed.

The project represents the company’s 17th data center in the world and its 13th in the United States. The facilities are filled with servers that store and transmit digital information that supports Facebook’s various digital platforms like photo and video sharing app Instagram and internet messaging service WhatsApp.

“It is a testament to the quality of our business environment and the competitive spirit of our state that in this economy we are able to attract one of the world’s largest companies to our state,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a prepared statement about the announcement. “We welcome Facebook to Tennessee, and we are excited about the investment, quality jobs and economic opportunity they will bring to Gallatin.”

In May, city leaders approved an incentive package worth an estimated $19.5 million in tax breaks for the project.

The vote came after an economic impact analysis study completed by Younger Associates found the development would result in an estimated local tax benefit of $62.7 million with average salaries expected to range from $50,000 to $80,000 a year.

While the project will feature two buildings initially, Gallatin EDA officials say Facebook could add up to four additional buildings on the property in future years. If fully built, the development would represent a total investment of nearly $2.5 billion by the company.

“This is the kind of project that so many people have worked for so many years to try to attract to our city,” Mayor Paige Brown said. “It’s very exciting that we’re reaching a significant goal, which is this kind of large investment in our community with quality jobs and a very sizeable capital investment.”

City pursuing more tech jobs

In 2017, Gallatin city leaders began to shift their efforts to pursing technology companies and corporate offices instead of industrial prospects in need of hundreds of workers.

“We were at three percent unemployment,” Gallatin EDA Executive Director James Fenton recalled. “We couldn’t find enough people to work in the manufacturing sector, so the decision was made to diversify our employment opportunities here. We did that by specifically targeting data centers to begin with.”

The city’s efforts soon paid off in August 2017 when Fenton signed a non-disclosure agreement for Project Skillet – a $750 million data center project that Facebook announced the following year it planned to build in Huntsville, Ala.

Despite not being chosen for the project, officials involved with the development said the company was looking to build several more data centers in the future and would likely be back to look at Gallatin. They returned in May 2018 under the name Project Woolhawk.

“There was an incredible amount of due diligence that they did to make sure that everything was in line,” Fenton said about the lengthy recruitment process. “A lot of it was securing land, but it was also making sure that land was viable for them.”

In November, New York-based technology startup Archer Datacenters broke ground on its own approximately 55,000-square-foot facility off Gateway Drive in the Gallatin Industrial Center. The data center will be located on 30 acres across from Beretta U.S.A.’s firearms manufacturing plant and will neighbor the Facebook development.

City officials say they hope the projects will help boost recruitment efforts targeting corporate offices, Class A office space and the jobs that come along with them.

“We’re opening the door for a whole new job opportunity that has not existed really in Middle Tennessee,” Brown said. “Now, we’ve got technology jobs coming in all over the area and we have kids right now making career decisions that can be something where they can stay in Tennessee or Gallatin and work.”

Information regarding Facebook job opportunities in Gallatin are expected to be posted on the company’s careers page online in the coming weeks. Future updates about the project will be available on the newly launched Gallatin Data Center page on Facebook.

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