KEARNEY— It appears that Project Edge, the $1.5 billion data resource center that Kearney hoped to win, will be built in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona, Iowa.
Facebook was expected to make the announcement at an 11:30 a.m. press conference following a 9:30 a.m. meeting with the Altoona City Council and the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board on several facets of the project.
Altoona, a city of 15,000, is located about five miles northeast of Des Moines. The structure is expected to be 1.4 million square feet.
Earlier today, city officials were reserving comments on the project until a 3 p.m. press conference this afternoon. City officials had been sworn to secrecy about the project. “Project Edge” was a moniker given to protect Facebook’s identity during the decision process.
Mayor Stan Clouse said in November that if Project Edge did not build in Kearney, the city is sure it can land other businesses.
“This is an extremely large project. If we don’t land the big fish, we’ll go for a whole stringer of smaller ones,” he said then.
Altoona City Administrator Jeff Mark said in November that he believed the availability of electricity and water was his city’s major strengths. “We’ve been working on proposed agreements with them,” he said last fall.
He could not be reached for comment this morning.
Last fall, Mark said the chosen site is currently cropland, but it is wired for utilities and has been rezoned, similar to Kearney’s Tech oNE Crossing technology park on the city’s northeast edge.
Kearney had spent $2 million in preparations for the project, clearing a 165-acre site near Antelope Road and East 56th Street for the project. That $2 million included $1 million from the state.
Last year, the Nebraska Legislature approved economic incentives to help Kearney land the project, including refunds on sales and use taxes, a property tax exemption and a refund on personal property taxes on computers and software.
Had Kearney been chosen, the project was expected to provide $12 million in state revenues over 14 years.
An announcement about the site selection had been expected last May, and when it did not come, speculation was that the center would land in Altoona, where conversations about infrastructure, development agreements and other issues had begun last fall.
Mark said financial incentives would be via the state of Iowa’s program for high-paying, high-quality jobs.
Clouse has said efforts in Altoona closely resemble efforts that Kearney and the state made to bring the project here. Clouse said Kearney and Nebraska had completed their preparations and incentive proposals before learning that Altoona was working on infrastructure and other agreements for the project.
“Kearney was so far ahead with everything we provided and then some,” Clouse said. “We were way ahead of the ballgame, but now we’re free to market that site.”
City Manager Mike Morgan said the site is “shovel-ready for a variety of projects. We feel very good about the site and the overall ability to attract similar type technological power parks in the future.”
This will be the third major data center project in Iowa. Microsoft has a large structure in West Des Moines, and Google has a facility in Council Bluffs.