Google doubles down on its Lenoir data center

Total investment to reach $1.2 billion
Apr. 20, 2013 @ 02:13 AM

Google will double its investment in Lenoir, spending $600 million to expand its data center here, the company announced Friday.

Since its initial announcement in December 2006 of the $600 million investment to build the data center, Google has hired more than 150 people, said Enoch Moeller, the data center’s operations manager. Google initially had pledged to create at least 200 jobs and received a $4.8 million incentive grant from the state. No additional jobs are planned as a result of the expansion, Moeller said.

Another Google spokesman said, "An expansion like this always creates new jobs, and we'll be hiring to fill new positions in the new building, but we don't have an exact number to share at this time."

Also, Duke Energy will seek state permission to create a separate rate structure for energy produced by renewable energy for large users such as Google to purchase, said Paul Newton, Duke Energy’s president for North Carolina.

Google is committed to being good environmental stewards, which includes both energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy, Moeller said. Google’s data centers consume half the energy of the typical data center. In 2007, Google made a voluntary commitment to become carbon-neutral.

Gov. Pat McCrory hailed the energy initiative as a market-based method to promote the development of low-cost, reliable energy.

McCrory said a key difference between the proposal Newton announced and existing state law mandating renewable-energy targets for utilities, which Republicans in the General Assembly have attacked, is “he’s talking about a voluntary program.” Allowing large power users to opt in to the renewable-energy rate structure would provide the market incentive for gradually continuing to develop the technology while keeping rates for other users low, he said.

McCrory and a parade of local and regional officials, including the area’s legislative representatives and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th, took turns singing Google’s praises.

In an interview after the announcement and ceremonial groundbreaking, McCrory hailed Google’s announcement for the halo effect it could have on industrial recruitment in the region and the rest of the state.

“People want to go where other people want to go,” he said. “It’s a shot of adrenaline to other people who want to come here.”

McCrory said Google’s willingness to double its investment here spoke well of Caldwell County’s business climate.

“The expansion of this is an even greater statement than the initial announcement was,” he said.

Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, expressed hope that Google’s expansion will encourage other technology companies to come to the region.

“The most exciting thing about Google announcing the expansion of its data center is it strengthens western North Carolina as a data corridor,” she said.

Lenoir Mayor Pro Tem T.J. Rohr spoke of both the tangible and intangible benefits of Google. Tangible benefits include Google’s sponsorship of programs in the Caldwell County Schools that help students achieve, Rohr said, and the intangible ones include giving students a greater sense of their own possibilities through exposure to those programs.

“Google gives kids a glimpse of the possibilities both inside and outside Lenoir,” he said.

Google says it has awarded $1 million to local schools and nonprofits since 2008.

Friday’s announcement was the lastest of several data center expansions Google has announced in recent months, including one at a data center near Charleston, S.C., that was built around the same time as the one in Lenoir.