DeKALB – Facebook’s parent company Meta announced Wednesday that it will expand its DeKalb data center on the south side of town by three buildings, bringing with it a community investment that now totals more than $1 billion.
Meta officials and city leaders have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon at facilities in the 1500 block of Gurler Road, which has been under construction since June 2020. Once work is complete, the installation of nearly 2.4 million square feet will represent an investment of more than $1 billion with 200 operational jobs, according to a press release. The construction is expected to employ more than 1,200 workers along the length of the building, officials said.
“We are excited to expand our presence in Illinois,” Darcy Nothnagle, director of community and economic development for Meta, said in a statement. “The City of DeKalb and the State of Illinois have been great partners from the beginning, and we look forward to continuing a strong and successful partnership for years to come.”
DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes called Meta’s impact on the DeKalb area more than an economic impact.
“From day one, they have made a concerted effort to have a greater impact on DeKalb,” Barnes said in a statement released ahead of the press conference. “And I look forward, with this announcement, to seeing this partnership continue to grow in the years to come.”
The social media company also announced Wednesday that its application window for area schools and nonprofits to receive financial support is now open. The company’s community action grant program will launch in the fall in DeKalb County, according to the news release. Grants are available for schools and registered 501(c)(3)s in the area. For more information on the grant program, visit www.datacenters.fb.com/grants/.
As part of the launch, Meta this year awarded a $50,000 grant to DeKalb School District 428 for the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs for elementary and middle school students.
DeKalb Superintendent Minerva Garcia-Sanchez said in a statement that she was excited about the opportunities made more important by the grant.
“Meta continues to be a great partner for the District,” Garcia-Sanchez said in a statement. “We look forward to the future as we transform from a well-known farming community into one of the nation’s leading technology hubs and look forward to our future plans.”
Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman spoke about Meta’s potential to be a major employer in the region.
“We look forward to expanding our excellent partnership with Meta to advance our mutual goals of equitable economic development, innovation and educational achievement for the region,” Freeman said in a statement.
In what company officials said was an effort to reduce Meta’s carbon footprint while building the data center, Meta also announced a partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The program will use engineered technology to aid in the development of a more sustainable concrete mix, according to the press release. The formula has already been tested at the DeKalb data center.
“These test applications confirm early signs that Meta has been able to design and successfully use concrete that meets our long-term strength requirements and has a carbon impact 40% lower than the regional benchmark,” says the press release.
The DeKalb data center is Meta’s 16th in the world and is built on over 500 acres on the south side of DeKalb. Founded in 2004, the world’s largest social media network is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, employs more than 48,000 people worldwide and operates data centers in Iowa, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Oregon, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Nebraska, Alabama, Georgia, Denmark, Singapore, Ireland and Sweden.
The development existed years ago under the code name Project Ventus until it was announced in 2020, and had been an integral part of the town of DeKalb and the countywide business community for months. To entice the social media giant to come to DeKalb, tax abatements were offered by DeKalb area governments and Northern Illinois University and Kishwaukee College touted local workforce development.
At the time of its announcement, data center jobs were to start at $38.50 an hour according to city documents. Meta said at the time that he planned to hire technicians, engineers, construction managers, facility managers, logistics professors and security personnel.
The development also came with tax abatement provisions, as per intergovernmental agreements signed by county tax bodies over a period of a few months in the spring of 2020.
Meta Data Center is aware of a 20-year, 55% property tax abatement plan already approved by the council and agreed through the DeKalb County Enterprise Zone, a program administered by the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, with a stipulation of 50 tech jobs with a starting wage of $38.50 an hour to qualify for tax abatements in the first few years, documents show .
With its announcement on Wednesday, more jobs are expected to flow into the expanding center.
This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.