The benefits of Facebook’s new data center in Gallatin will extend beyond the local economy to public schools and nonprofit organizations, according to company and city officials.

A recent report from RTI International found that since 2011, the social media giant has given more than 570 grants and more than $7.4 million to communities where its data centers are located.

“At Facebook, we are committed to being good neighbors and to investing in our local communities,” Facebook Community Development Manager Katie Comer said. “Supporting local organizations and schools is just part of how we invest in a community and care about the people.

“We look forward to starting to work with the Gallatin community to see how we can best invest in the vitality of this area.”

According to the report, the company provided more than 300 grants to local organizations between 2017 and 2019. The majority of the investments went to support nonprofits and public education systems.

Facebook typically looks for projects that help connect a community on and offline, improve STEM education or use technology for the community’s benefit, Comer added.

In response to Covid-19, the company has also provided support focused on educational resources, small business support and other assistance to nonprofits that serve those struggling with the impacts of the pandemic. As of August, Facebook had donated $10.9 million in coronavirus relief in its data center communities, according to the report.

“In Huntsville, we gave Madison County Schools a grant for more than $900,000 to provide 1:1 technology for students and mobile hotspots,” Comer said. “In Georgia we provided a total of $350,000 to two local chambers of commerce for small business COVID relief funds.”

Gallatin community outreach efforts underway

Facebook currently operates eight data centers across the United States with five additional ones under construction. In August, the company announced it had broken ground on its newest data center, an $800 million state-of-the-art facility located in Gallatin. 

While the project is expected to bring in millions of dollars to the local economy, Gallatin Economic Development Agency Executive Director James Fenton said the city’s interest in recruiting the company was about more than just additional revenue.

“Before we ever knew that this project was indeed Facebook, the folks we worked with over the past three years told us they are very involved in hands-on support of the community,” Fenton said about the recruitment process. “From our visits and phone calls… we knew the company truly appreciated Gallatin, its people and its culture.

“It was one of the drivers that kept our team going over the last three years.”

The 982,000-square-foot data center is expected to open in 2023 and will be located on approximately 809 acres off Hartsville Pike between Roundtree Drive and Brights Lane.

While Facebook typically begins making its charitable contributions in a data center community once the facility opens, Comer said efforts are already underway to connect with local organizations.

The company is partnering with Mayor Paige Brown on a Pollinator Habitat program and has committed to provide nearly 30 acres of improved pollinator habitat within the next two years at its Gallatin Data Center site.

“These communities are not just where we work, but where our employees live,” Comer said. “This is our home and we want to invest in its long-term vitality.”

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