Google growing its Oklahoma data center
PRYOR — Google unveiled its newly completed four-story data center in Mayes County on Friday, part of a total $2 billion investment the company is making in the area by 2018.
Andrew Silvestri, head of public policy and external affairs for Google Oklahoma, said Oklahoma's overall business-friendly environment and Google's strong partnership with Pryor's MidAmerica Industrial Park have helped make Mayes County a good place for the company to grow.
“Oklahoma has just really strong assets in terms of available land, renewable energy and we have great partners in the state that have really worked well with us to work at Google speed,” Silvestri said.
Google employs about 400 people in Mayes County, Silvestri said. About 70 percent of Google's workforce is hired from the local area, he said.
“We like to hire local,” Silvestri said. “We don't just want to fly in jobs. Having the talent to do that is crucial and Oklahoma has been a great place to work.”
On Friday, Google also announced a $100,000 grant to the Workforce Development division of the MidAmerica Industrial Park to support science, technology, engineering and math education in northeast Oklahoma.
“What it does is that it lends credibility to MidAmerica (Industrial Park),” said David Stewart, chief administrative officer of MidAmerica, which houses the firm's 800-acre campus. “Google would not be here unless they had done their homework and researched it.
“… Not only did they make the decision to come here, but they've made the decision to stay here and grow here. It just validates the work that we do to help them with all of their infrastructure needs, which is critical. If they don't have the water and the power and all of the fiber and all that, they can't operate.”
Google first announced plans to build a new data center complex in Mayes County in 2007. In 2012, the company announced a second data center building on the site at Prior's MidAmerica Industrial Park.
In 2013, Google paid PepsiCo Inc. $24.5 million for an idled Gatorade plant next to its Mayes County industrial plant.
The 1.4 million-square-foot former Gatorade plant is one of the largest industrial buildings in the state.
Google is still holding onto to the Gatorade plant for warehouse space.
Google has purchased nearly 2.5 gigawatts of renewable energy for its data centers around the world, including in Oklahoma, Silvestri said.
In Oklahoma, Google signed contracts for 572 megawatts of wind power in Grady, Caddo, Beaver, Dewey, Ellis, and Woodward counties, which have resulted in more than $500 million in renewable energy investment in Oklahoma.
“Google's $2 billion dollar investment announcement in Oklahoma is yet another example of our state's success in attracting, retaining and growing some of the best companies in the world,” Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement.
Google was recruited to Oklahoma with the help of what is known as the manufacturing ad valorem exemption.
It's a state-sponsored business incentive, approved by Oklahoma voters in 1985, that exempts certain types of business investment from property taxes for five years.
During that time, the business pays taxes on the original value of the property, and state taxpayers pick up the tab for what the business would have paid on the additional value of the new or expanded capacity.
These payments are made to local governments — primarily school districts and county government — through what is known as the ad valorem reimbursement fund.
From the time Google opened its first data center in Pryor in 2011, the local school district's total assessed property valuation grew to $325.6 million in 2015, an increase of 168 percent, the Tulsa World reported in May.
Over that same span, Mayes County's assessed property valuation ballooned to $498.4 million, a rise of 82 percent.
CONTRIBUTING: The Tulsa World
In 2013, Google paid PepsiCo Inc. $24.5 million for an idled Gatorade plant next to its Mayes County industrial plant. The 1.4 million-square-foot former Gatorade plant is one of the largest industrial buildings in the state. Google is still holding onto to the Gatorade plant for future expansion.