Google kicks off construction on $600M Alabama data center

By Jerry Underwood
Made in Alabama

Internet giant Google has officially launched construction of a $600 million data center in Alabama with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site in Jackson County. The project will create as many as 100 full-time jobs and create massive economic ripples.

Google said the data center in Bridgeport will be a hub for Internet traffic, fitting into a network that keeps the company’s search engine and its other Internet-based products functioning around the clock. The project was formally announced in June 2015.

“Google is committed to investing in Jackson County to create new economic and educational opportunities for the people of Alabama and the surrounding region,” said Dr. Nan Boden, senior director and head of Global Technology Partners for Google Cloud. “As a native Alabamian, I am so proud to be part of the effort to bring this Google data center to life in the coming months and years.”

Google’s data center in Jackson County will become Alabama’s first large-scale data center. The company said the center will create between 75 and 100 highly technical jobs, with potential for growth in the future.

“As one of the world’s most dynamic and innovative technology companies, Google’s products touch billions of people across the globe every single day,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “We’re proud that Alabama is playing an important role in Google’s future growth, and we look forward to seeing this data center operation help power that growth.”

She added, “When Google was searching for its next location, I’m glad they found Alabama.”

Google is investing $600 million to build a data center in Bridgeport in Jackson County. (contributed)

Massive impact

Google is constructing the data center on 360 acres adjacent to the old Widows Creek coal-fired power plant, which was decommissioned in 2015 by the Tennessee Valley Authority after decades of operation. TVA is working with Google to provide renewable energy to fully match the facility’s power usage.

Google also said its Jackson County data center will feature state-of-the-art energy efficiency. The Alabama facility will become its 14th data center globally and the eighth in the U.S.

“This is a big day for Bridgeport because it helps our city in many different ways,” Mayor David “Bubba” Hughes said. “Having Google in our community will bring us great jobs and offer real opportunities for our young people. Google is a generous supporter of schools, and the company’s presence will help us recruit other high-tech companies.

“No doubt about it — this a game-changer for us.”

The data center project is expected to have a massive economic impact on the area and add a new dimension to Jackson County’s economy, which today has a heavy concentration of manufacturers producing items ranging from carpets to auto parts.

“Google is a company that has an international reputation for excellence. This particular project has so much meaning not only for Jackson County but also for the state of Alabama,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The Google footprint, initially at $600 million, is an incredible commitment to establishing and expanding the company’s Internet capabilities.

“What is really going to be more important is the future of Google in Alabama, because we hope this is just the beginning.”

Marking a milestone

Google said it selected the Jackson County site because it offered the right combination of energy infrastructure and developable land. In addition, both state and local officials worked very hard to forge a partnership with the company and advance the data center project.

“I’m thrilled to join with Google today as they break ground on their data center in Jackson County,” said U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville. “It’s great to see companies like Google recognize what we in the Tennessee Valley have known all along — that we have a tremendous pool of talent in northern Alabama and that this is a wonderful place to live and work.”

As part of its commitment to local communities, Google also announced onsite that it would be donating $100,000 to the Jackson County School District for the growth and development of the region’s student STEM programs.

Repurposing the Widows Creek site and committing to match 100 percent of its electricity consumption at the Alabama data center with renewable energy purchases reflects Google’s longtime leadership on renewable energy. The company was one of the first to begin buying renewables on a large scale in 2010 and achieved 100 percent renewable energy for its operations in 2017.

“The milestone we celebrate today is the result of government, business and community leaders working together with TVA to bring good jobs and quality investment to our region,” TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson said.

“Google’s newest facility on the site of TVA’s former fossil plant at Widows Creek ensures that this storied location continues to be a landmark for technology and economic development for the people of North Alabama.”

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.