Tax breaks notwithstanding, data centers have been winners for Crook County and the city of Prineville. That continues to be true: Facebook announced Tuesday that it will build two new buildings over the next four to five years. In exchange, the social media company will avoid property taxes on buildings and equipment for the next 15 years.
That’s a good deal for Facebook, no doubt about it. It provides a variety of other benefits to the county and does pay taxes on the land.
The company, which first came to Crook County in 2010, is a major charitable contributor to good causes, for one thing. Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe notes Facebook has doled out $1.23 million in grants in the city and county since 2012. That generosity continues.
And, while it pays dramatically reduced taxes, Facebook does pay a substantial sum in franchise fees to the city. Roppe says the amount Prineville collects has doubled since the company first arrived.
As for those property taxes, the land on which Facebook sits was owned by Crook County until it was purchased by Facebook. No property taxes were collected on it when it was publicly owned, though Facebook has paid the county $8.6 million for the land since 2010.
Critics of Facebook and Crook County’s other large data center presence, Apple, say they don’t create enough jobs. Facebook employs roughly 200 people for its Prineville operation. That is nothing to complain about.
The company also has been building nearly continuously since it came to Central Oregon, and it has employed hundreds of construction workers over that time. As a result, Prineville’s housing stock has grown by roughly 10 percent in just the last couple of years. And, while those jobs may be temporary, so, too, are all construction jobs. Most of the Facebook jobs will last for years, not months.
It’s hard to argue that the county and city have lost on Facebook. It has provided some 200 jobs, long-term temporary work and just plain cash to the region. That’s hard to dismiss in a county where unemployment, now 6.5 percent, reached 19.2 percent during the Great Recession.