Becker City Council Hears Tax Abatement Request for Google
BECKER -- Touting the overall economic impact on the region, supporters of the Google Data Center project spoke to the Becker city Council Tuesday night. The council held a public hearing on Google's request for a 20-year tax abatement on the property.
Community Development Director Marie Pflipsen says it is not a 100-percent abatement because the company would still pay about $300,000 in taxes annually to the school district.
When it comes to the city and the county it's not 100 percent of the property taxes either, so if you walk out to the site today you won't see much, it's a field and there are taxes coming in on that property now. There's about $15,000 coming in every year. Those taxes will still be paid, so it's anything new.
Pflipsen says the projected annual abatement from the city would be about $312,000, which is just about $6.2 million over the 20 years. She says while $312,000 a year is a lot of money for Becker to give-up in tax revenue, it is what they have to do to compete in a global market.
It is a tool in our toolbox that the state legislature gives us to help attract projects like this, so when you look at different states around the U.S., especially with companies like Google they are worldwide and we want to be able to be competitive.
Google is considering buying about 300 acres of land that is currently owned by Xcel Energy, which is adjacent to its Sherco property.
The proposed 375,000 square foot data center, when fully operational, would create at least 50 new jobs with an annual average income of $80,000 a year, and have an annual payroll of over $4 million.
During the public hearing, representatives from the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, Elk River Chamber of Commerce, Central Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and Greater MSP all spoke in favor of it saying data centers like this are highly sought after, and that it would hopefully attract other technology-based companies to the region.
City, county, and state officials have been working on the project for about three years.
With Xcel Energy shutting down two of the three units at the coal-powered Sherco Power Plant in the next seven years, Becker city officials are working to attract new companies to town to replace the lost jobs and revenue. Pflipsen says they are making strides in replacing the future jobs lost.
Last year we announced Northern Metal moving into town, so some of that property that they purchased was former buffer property. They purchased it from Xcel. When you start looking at what we've done locally we are backfilling a lot of that loss already. With Northern Metal there are about 80 jobs, and this will bring in another 50 jobs, so those direct jobs we're actually getting really close to replacing.
Besides the 50 permanent jobs the data center would create, it is estimated 2,300 construction jobs would be added during the construction phase.
The city council did not vote on the abatement request Tuesday night, they instead decided to hold it over for a vote at their next meeting on April 2nd to give residents more time to weigh-in.
Sherburne County's Economic Development Authority will hear Google's request for a tax abatement from the county Thursday, and the county commissioners will hold their public hearing this coming Tuesday.
Besides the tax abatement request to both the city and the county, there are two other pieces to the puzzle in order to get Google to come to central Minnesota: Xcel Energy has a petition in to the Public Utilities Commission to serve electricity to the site and they've asked for a review and vote on their proposal by the end of June. One-hundred percent of the energy would come from wind farms in the Dakotas.
Also, a bill has been introduced in the state legislature for over $20 million in bonding money for wastewater infrastructure improvements to the city's industrial park.