Have Facebook data centers created jobs in other communities?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Altoona, Iowa. It's a town of about 18,000 people. It may not seem likely, but it has something in common with Huntsville...Facebook.

Facebook announced plans to build a data center in Huntsville on Thursday. And in 2014 the social media giant built a data center in the small, midwestern town.

WHNT News 19 took a look at Altoona and is taking action to find out what Huntsville's future could look like.

"Facebook is building a new $750 million data center right here in Alabama," Governor Kay Ivey said at a press conference Thursday.

Alabama officials made a big announcement Thursday filled with the promise of more jobs.

"Creating approximately 100 new jobs and an hourly wage of 38 dollars an hour and that's and that's just shy of 80 thousand dollars," Ivey said.

"A  recent study found that for every one million dollars in operating costs, 13 jobs are supported in the economy and for every one million dollars in capital expenditures, more than 14 jobs are supported in the economy," Facebook Site Selection Director, Matt VanderZanden said.

Mayor Tommy Battle did the math. He says that multiplier effect means the data center could create up to 1,200 jobs.

We're Taking Action to examine that claim. To do that, we turn to the midwest.

Altoona, Iowa celebrated a very similar day in April 2013.

Facebook has built three data centers in Altoona and is currently working on a fourth.

According to a representative from Facebook, 300 people are employed fulltime at the facilities there.

Altoona city administrator Jeff Mark says the city is a suburb of Des Moines, so it is very difficult to measure any kind of multiplier effect,  but he says the city has benefitted from Facebook's name recognition. Something that might already be happening in Huntsville.

"Just today my phone is has been ringing off the hook with people who heard about the announcement and were calling to find out about job opportunities or other tech opportunities because Facebook picked Huntsville then there should be something for them as well," Senior Vice President of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Lucia Cape said.

Could Huntsville see more Facebook data centers in the future, just like Altoona?

Facebook purchased 340 acres of land in the North Huntsville Industrial Park. There is also a 203-acre purchase option site where Facebook could expand.
City Urban Development Director, Shane Davis says the chances for that are high since the company's initial investment in town was 3 quarters of a billion dollars.

Facebook was given $6.6 million dollars in non-direct incentives from the City of Huntsville to build the data center.

The company is also receiving a $86 million investment credit from the State of Alabama. Secretary of Commerce, Greg Canfield says the investment credit is the equivalent of a tax credit of about 1 and a half percent, each year over ten years, of their total investment.