- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Facebook is going much bigger with an under-construction data center in New Mexico, announcing plans Tuesday to build another four buildings and boost its total investment to more than $1 billion.

Gov. Susana Martinez joined company officials to announce the expansion plans in Los Lunas, a rural area just outside of Albuquerque. She said the data center campus will include a total of six buildings covering nearly 2.8 million square feet (260,000 square meters) of what was once a barren plot of desert.

She said during a news conference that successful companies like Facebook are converting areas like the one just west of Los Lunas into hives of activity and that the city and the state will see tens of millions of dollars in gross receipts tax revenues from the construction alone.

The two-term Republican governor has touted Facebook as an important partner as the state works to diversify its economy.

“This shows even more encouraging momentum, and we’ll continue using our powerful tools and reforms to compete for more jobs and investment,” the governor said in a statement.

New Mexico has been looking to turn the corner after a crippling budget crisis that stemmed from a downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors and an overall weak economy. The state also has struggled with high unemployment numbers.

Aside from the permanent jobs associated with running the data center, officials say construction crews will be busy at the site well into 2023.

Facebook broke ground on the first building in October 2016. It’s expected to go live in late 2018.

K.C. Timmons, head of Facebook’s Data Center Operations for the West region, said the Los Lunas facility will be one of the most advanced, energy-efficient centers in the world. It will have the latest in server, storage and network designs and an evaporative cooling system capable of protecting the servers inside from New Mexico’s frequent dust storms.

In August 2015, Martinez led an economic development team to California to meet with company executives to promote New Mexico. Facebook selected the state over Utah for the data center after a mini bidding war.

Los Lunas agreed to give up property taxes for 30 years in exchange for annual payments starting at $50,000 and topping out at under $500,000, while the state promised billions of dollars in industrial revenue bonds and other economic development funding.

State utility regulators also cleared the way for Facebook and Public Service Co. of New Mexico to create a renewable energy tariff, which allows the company to secure solar- and wind-generated electricity to power the data center.

Facebook officials say installation of a 30-megawatt solar farm is currently underway nearby.

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