Nebraska economic development officials have been working hard to attract major data center projects to their state. And it must have been frustrating to see Google and Yahoo each announce enormous data center projects next door in Iowa.
So when Yahoo came to Nebraska as part of a 17-state site location process, state officials were determined to compete hard for the project, a commitment that extended to the governor's office. When company and local officials gathered this morning to announce Yahoo's $100 million data center in La Vista and customer care center in Omaha, Gov. Dave Heineman wore purple Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Purple, of course, is Yahoo's signature color.
"The personal involvement of the governor was the key here, as evidenced by his purple shoes," Yahoo Vice President of Operations Kevin Timmons told the Omaha World-Herald. "His involvement was a big factor compared to the competing states. I got a lot of calls from him asking, 'Kevin, what do we have to do to get to a yes?'"
Yahoo started its site selection process in January, with the goal of locating in the Midwest. Heineman and Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy, along with state and local economic development official, met many times with company representatives to make the case for locating in Nebraska. The state's economic development web site has a portal for data center prospects and had a booth at the spring Data Center World trade show in Las Vegas.
More importantly, the state's Nebraska Advantage program was updated to allow Internet web portal companies to qualify for business incentives. Yahoo will apply for incentives under Tier 4 of the Nebraska Advantage package, which calls for companies to invest at least $100 million in capital and create 100 new jobs. The expansion of the incentive program was critical to Yahoo's selection of Nebraska over Iowa, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
"Yahoo is a great example of how Nebraska is working to attract the data center industry and other high-tech companies.” Heineman said, “These two projects present an extraordinary opportunity for Nebraska. It leaves no doubt that Nebraska can successfully compete for technology jobs."
The discussions with Yahoo involved many different state and local agencies, according to David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which helped direct traffic among all the parties. “In cooperation with the State of Nebraska, the collaboration among the Chamber, Sarpy County Economic Development Corporation, the two cities under the leadership of their mayors, and Omaha Public Power District, cannot be overstated,” said Brown.