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December 5, 2022

State and local tax incentives part of Meta expansion in DeKalb

A massive data center under construction in northern Illinois is about to get even bigger. The city of DeKalb and state of Illinois provided tax breaks to the project.

Meta, the social media giant that’s the parent company of Facebook, has announced plans to more than double the size of its facility in DeKalb to nearly 2.4 million square feet. Construction on the initial buildings is nearly complete, with the new additions scheduled to be finished in 2023.

“Right now, DeKalb is hot,” DeKalb Mayor Mayor Cohen Barnes said. “Our government is about as business-friendly as you can get. Whenever we meet with a new business thinking about locating here, the answer right out of the gate is ‘yes.’ And then let’s figure out how to make it happen.”

More than 1,200 workers are involved in the construction process, with 200 jobs employed long-term to operate the facility.

“Strategically, from a workforce perspective, we’ve got a highly educated workforce here in DeKalb with Northern Illinois University, but then also access to Chicagoland,” Barnes said. “The workforce there makes it really appealing for companies to come here.”

The five-building complex will be filled with servers and other equipment to help connect users around the globe to Meta’s social media platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and more.

State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, who represents the DeKalb area, says a tax incentive included in the 2019 Rebuild Illinois capital plan has been a key to making the project happen.

“What the state did is they came in and said any data center that comes to Illinois investing over $250 million, put that incentive in place to be attractive,” Keicher said. “What the state surrenders is the state share of sales tax revenue that is generated from the purchase of the computers and wiring [for] the data center.”

He thinks the message being sent by Meta’s first data center in Illinois, and one of just 17 around the country, could lead to big things around the state.

“You see the vetting that Facebook/Meta has undertaken for the DeKalb site,” Keicher said. “Now all the other large campus data centers realize that we have the right tools in place to also locate here.”

Locally, DeKalb provided some property tax incentives to help make the deal happen, waiving 55% of the amount owed over the next 20 years.

“You have to realize this was just farmland before they came in,” Barnes said. “So the amount of Equalized Assessed Value that we’re going to have in our community because of this over $1 billion investment is a huge revenue stream for our schools and for our other taxing bodies.”

Over the course of its first 20 years, officials estimate $60 million to $100 million in property tax revenue for local DeKalb taxing bodies.

Local leaders also have been impressed with Meta’s commitment to support community organizations and local non-profits in the area.

“They are particularly excited about DeKalb because it’ll be the first location with a major university there,” Barnes said. DeKalb is home to Northern Illinois University.  “They’ve already started working with the university as well as our school district to figure out how they can bring more STEM programs to those educational organizations.”

Keicher hopes this experience can serve as an example for other communities around Illinois.

“I think Illinois in general is being seen as a business unfriendly state,” Keicher said. “A lot of municipalities are used to being told, ‘No, we’re not interested.’ DeKalb changed that model and has embraced it. All those government units created the comprehensive ‘we’re in this together’ feel.”

This article was originally posted on State and local tax incentives part of Meta expansion in DeKalb