Will Iowa's giant data centers spur growth in technology jobs here?September 07, 2017
With Facebook, Google, Microsoft and now Apple, the blue-chip tech names are starting to stack up in Iowa.
The state has attracted billions in new data center investments over the last decade, most recently with Apple's announcement of a $1.4 billion data center planned for Waukee.
Data centers deliver big capital investments and fuel short-term employment in construction. But once online, the highly automated operations don't require masses of workers. That dynamic has put renewed scrutiny on Iowa's economic development practices, as tech giants continue to reap millions in taxpayer incentives to build here.
Facebook, Microsoft and Google collectively employ about 700 people in Iowa, according to information provided by the companies and economic development officials. And the overall data center industry is actually in decline in Iowa, according to federal data.
But state officials last week urged Iowans to look beyond just the numbers of full-time data center employees.
Apple received $213 million in overall incentives — by one account, the second-costliest data center in the U.S. on a per-jobs basis. As part of their justification for the incentives, state leaders pointed to the wider implications on the local tech industry and the optics of recruiting Apple to Iowa.
Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, said "all eyes are on Iowa for building this technology ecosystem. So it's always unfortunate that we always focus on, 'well, it's just 50 jobs.'"
Read More on The Des Moines RegisterContact:Debi Durham, Executive Director(515) 242-4720