Utah quiet on whether Facebook data project still alive

Features Associated Press

Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that a Salt Lake City suburb's efforts to entice a new Facebook data center with millions of dollars in tax breaks may have ended, and local officials declined comment on whether they are still trying to lure the center.

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An initial plan to give Facebook about $240 million in tax breaks fell apart late last month after local leaders, including Salt Lake County's mayor and county council, said the offer was too generous.

After the state school board agreed the package was pricey, city officials in West Jordan said on Aug. 23 it that they would end negotiations because they could not compete with tax breaks offered by Los Lunas, New Mexico.

The city then reversed course the next day, with officials saying they still thought attracting the Facebook center represented a good opportunity and planned to start fresh.

Officials have been quiet since then, and Herbert said Wednesday that "the issue seems to be dormant at best and maybe lost. We'll have to see what happens."

Herbert, speaking at a news conference taped Wednesday by KUED-TV for broadcast later, would not say whether he believed the project was a worthwhile investment, but said the state had a minimal role in trying to attract the project because the effort was driven by local officials.

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West Jordan city spokeswoman Kim Wells said Wednesday that the city is still interested in the project but the city itself has not started any new negotiations.

Wells deferred further questions to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, (EDCUtah) a private nonprofit group contracted to recruit businesses to the state by the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Erin Laney, the director of Business Development at EDCUtah, declined to comment Wednesday.

Aimee Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development, said her agency was not involved in any talks and had no comment.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, an early and outspoken critic of the deal, has said the offer already extended was too expensive for a project that would produce about 100 jobs.

Salt Lake County officials have heard nothing about the attempt to attract the Facebook center since Aug. 23, said his spokeswoman, Alyson Heyrend.

An emailed message seeking comment from Facebook was not immediately returned.

In New Mexico, state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, a Republican whose district includes Los Lunas, said Wednesday he had not heard of any developments out of Utah. He reiterated his support for the project, saying construction of a data center in New Mexico could have a beneficial ripple effect for the economy.

"I think Facebook represents a really good opportunity for Los Lunas and the whole state of New Mexico to have a globally recognized company located here," he said.

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Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque contributed to this report.