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Google invests $1.2 billion in Nebraska in 2023, including new Lincoln data center

August 22, 2023 - Tech giant Google continues to expand its footprint in Nebraska, unveiling plans Tuesday for a new data center in the capital city.


The company said it is making a $1.2 billion investment in the state in 2023, with part of the money going toward the new center planned in northeast Lincoln. The center is expected to cost a total of $600 million, and some of those costs would occur in future years, the company said.


Another part of the $1.2 billion will go for ongoing expansion of the company’s current data center in Papillion, the company said. And some will go toward Google’s new data center under construction in northwest Omaha near State Street and Blair High Road. That center is expected to open soon, the company said.


Google’s Nebraska spending in 2023 comes on top of $5 billion that the company previously has invested in the Omaha metro area, and doesn’t include the announcement earlier this month of a $350 million expansion at Google’s massive data center in Council Bluffs.


Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird expressed delight that the project in her city, concealed during the planning stages by the pseudonym “Agate,” could finally be revealed.


I’m really excited,” Gaylor Baird said. “For the past four years, since I walked into the doors of city hall as mayor, we’ve been having to call this ‘Project Agate.’”


We can stop winking at the chamber and saying ‘We think it rhymes with Schmoogle.’”


Gaylor Baird said that in recent years Lincoln has become the cradle for a flourishing tech scene. Large companies and small startups, she said, are recognizing what the city has to offer.


With today’s announcement, we expand our economic vitality, workforce and stature of our city in a really big way,” she said. “We know that Lincoln is already on Google’s map, but I’m thrilled to say Google is now officially on Lincoln’s map.”


The center will create new jobs, anchor industrial development and provide a range of services “that power businesses from Scottsbluff to Scottsdale and beyond,” she said.


Luke Peltz, vice president of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, said the project has been in the works nearly five years and will pay dividends, initially in construction jobs.


It’s a huge win for Lincoln,” he said.


Google officials said earth movers are already on site.


The Lincoln data center will look similar in design to the Papillion center, said Allie Hopkins, Google’s head of data centers for Iowa and Nebraska.


We try to do similar builds,” Hopkins said. “That helps with speed and efficiency, and we really can fine-tune the design.”


Hopkins could not say when the Lincoln data center would come online.


I can tell you that we’re starting now. And I can’t tell you when we’re going to be done. That’s a timeline. We’ll probably have an announcement when it’s actually in production.”


She said Nebraska’s low unemployment rate has not hampered hiring.


The talent has been really, really fantastic,” readily accessible and “eager to come work for us and stay with us,” she said.


Papillion Mayor David Black thanked Google for its continued investment in his community.


They came in 2018, I think, started building in 2019, and completed a building every year since then,” Black said. “A lot of places could just be a big corporation that just comes in and uses us. Google really is part of the community.”


The company says that since breaking ground on the Papillion center in 2019, it has created more than 120 jobs for Nebraskans. Those full-time and external supplier jobs have included computer technicians, engineers and various food service, maintenance and security roles, it says.


Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said the projects will have “a huge impact on Papillion, Lincoln and on the entire state.”


As we all know, these data centers are extremely critical to the internet and cloud services that power our economy,” Fischer said. “And our state offers the critical resources that are necessary to support that innovation.”


Nebraska has a great workforce, excellent university system, resources, land and water needed to support the centers, she said.


The centers create good technology jobs, and Nebraska has the workforce to fill them, she said.


Rep. Mike Flood, R-Neb., said the expansion will “create good jobs that connect Nebraskans to the rest of the world.”


Flood, who represents Lincoln and much of eastern Nebraska, joked that Google should sprinkle some more data centers around his district.


Since you’re handing out these data centers like candy, I would like one in Fremont, Columbus and Norfolk,” he said. “Once that happens, we have the trifecta.”


Data centers support all the digital services that people use each day, like Gmail, YouTube, search and cloud storage.


The growing use of the cloud, plus the advancement and innovation in artificial intelligence, are driving the need for Google to ramp up its infrastructure, Hopkins said.


We’re the fastest-growing cloud provider so we’ve got to be able to meet that demand,” she said.


Tuesday’s announcement came at a press conference at Google’s Papillion data center at 14865 Gold Coast Road, just west of Nebraska Highway 50.


The new Lincoln data center will be on the northwest corner of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 77, or 56th Street, on the northeast edge of Lincoln.


Google, through a subsidiary, paid about $18.6 million for about 600 acres of land at the site. Another subsidiary applied for $600 million in state tax incentives in 2020.


The Papillion expansion will add to the considerable growth of data centers in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. According to Dgtl Infra, the area already has at least 20 data centers from a dozen different providers.


Overall, global internet usage has grown 20-fold since 2010. And lifestyle changes since the pandemic, with the rise of working from home and more online shopping, have only helped to further drive the demand for data centers. The rise of artificial intelligence has become another recent driver.


Data centers gobble up incredible amounts of power — for big ones, as much as a small city. And the Omaha area’s data center growth is leading what’s believed to be the largest spike in demand for electricity in the Omaha Public Power District’s 77-year history.


To meet that growth, Omaha’s public customer-owned electric utility last week approved a $2 billion plan to nearly double its generating capacity over the next decade.

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