Fox File #91: The Halo Effect
I had the opportunity to join the Utah chapter of NAIOP and a few EDCUtah partners in touring the Facebook Data Center in Eagle Mountain, Utah on Friday, Nov. 1. It’s hard to convey how impressive and even overwhelming the scale of the operation is. In raw numbers, the facility is a two-building “H” design that totals about 970,000 square feet. There are currently more than 1,100 construction workers onsite building the project. These two sets of buildings boast a capex of about $750 million (not including the infrastructure costs - more on that later).
After having toured through the facility, I was reminded about how this was such a great project for a number of different reasons. First, it’s a “second chance” project that may never have happened had Governor Herbert not flown out to Menlo Park in May 2017 to ask Facebook to take another look at Utah, after an earlier project had gone elsewhere.
It’s a story about being intentional and being prepared. Eagle Mountain City was clear about its intentions to attract a large-scale, high capital expenditure project, and they took several important steps at the municipal level to prepare accordingly. Those preparations included an overlay zone and streamlining their administrative processes to be able to move fast.
It’s a story of pioneering infrastructure, which has led to follow-on investments. In partnership with the state of Utah and the local taxing entities, Facebook and Rocky Mountain Power have oversized the infrastructure such that there is now a gigawatt substation from which other users can draw from. This infrastructure opens up Cedar Valley for additional investment, including a follow-on, job-creating investment like the Tyson Foods project.
And finally, it’s a story about the halo effect in other parts of the state. There are several hundred megawatts of solar energy under construction in rural Utah supporting both this project and Facebook’s Prineville, Oregon data center. Those Facebook-driven investments create additional opportunities for Utah companies, such as Intermountain Electronics in Price, Utah, to provide services to Facebook and the solar developments.