Facebook data center deal may not be dead in West Jordan

Posted at 11:14 AM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 23:32:09-04

WEST JORDAN - Less than 24 hours after West Jordan City Manager Mark Palesh nixed a deal with Facebook, he says the arrangement with the social media giant isn't dead just yet.

"I realized that's playing high stakes poker," Palesh said about the risk. "They could have said 'We're gone,' and I wouldn't have been too happy."

But Palesh and West Jordan seemed ready to agree Tuesday night to a proposal that would have offered Facebook upward of $240 million in tax incentives to build a data center in the city. However, some state and county officials were not on the same page.

"That's double the size of the largest incentive ever in Utah history," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

"That's enormous," He added with disapproval.

The County Council and West Jordan City Council couldn't agree on the amount of property tax Facebook should ultimately have paid through their deal. The Jordan School District was in favor of the deal because, currently, that land isn't generating any revenue for schools via property taxes. With this deal, that land could instead provide upwards of $300,000 in revenue for the district per year.

However, Mayor McAdams contends that while $300,000 is better than nothing, that number could be even higher if a company bought the land without the tax incentives.

"I think we should be holding out for the right deal," Mayor McAdams said.

McAdams said he felt left out of the discussion between West Jordan and Facebook from the get-go. Now it appears his office may have another crack at it.

A West Jordan City official says after the deal was nixed Tuesday night, someone within the Governor's Office reached out to Facebook in hopes they wouldn't walk away completely.

A different proposal from a city in New Mexico offered similar tax incentives, which caused many to wonder if Facebook would bail on Utah completely. However, Palesh says it sounds like Facebook is willing to entertain further proposals, if Utah's politicians can all get on the same page.

"This proposal is a zombie back to life," Mayor McAdams said.

He doesn't seem optimistic that the results the second time around will be much different. However, Palesh hopes the two, and other county, city, and state officials can all come together to work something out.

“I have a chair and I’ll pull it up for him," Palesh said of Mayor McAdams. "I want him to be engaged in this.”