Google Expands in Iowa, Considers Oregon Investment

Google’s facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Ah, springtime, when an operations manager’s fancy turns to thoughts of spending his capital budget. Somewhere, Google’s CIO must be dreaming of wildflowers blooming in Iowa and Oregon.

After re-confirming a $600 million investment to expand its datacenter in Lenoir, South Carolina, Google plans to invest another $400 million in its Council Bluffs, Iowa data center. Meanwhile, Google representatives suggested (in what appears to be a casual conversation) that the company is exploring whether to expand its data center in The Dalles, in Oregon.

Google isn’t alone in its expansionist impulses. Facebook has confirmed that it’s behind Project Catapult, a $300 million investment in a data center located in Altoona, a Des Moines suburb. That site is roughly 126 miles away from Council Bluffs, a little more than the distance separating The Dalles from Facebook’s datacenter in Prineville, Ore.

Google has progressively upgraded its Council Bluffs datacenter; as SouthwestIowaNews reported, it originally spent $600 million on the site in 2009, before adding another $300 million site across town last year (Google refers to the latter as the “Southlands facility”). Last November, Google said it would spend another $200 million at the Southlands, with the most recent investment adding $400 million to the site. That totals $1.5 billion of investment within Council Bluffs alone.

The data centers will naturally support Google’s cloud services. Google already owns six data centers within the United States, from South Carolina to Oregon. Google has also expanded overseas: In April, for example, the company spent $390 million to upgrade a data center in Belgium.

Investing more than a billion dollars into a small town obviously has an outsized influence on Altoona, just as it would within The Dalles, a small town of a bit less than 14,000 people.

In what appears to be more speculation than anything else—although likely, given Google’s investments elsewhere—The Dalles Chronicle suggested that Google would ramp up its presence there, as well. “For the last six years I’ve been here, we’ve been doing various upgrades to expand the equipment and give more capacity to users,” Dave Karlson, Google’s data center site manager, told the Chronicle. “We need to think about what we might do to meet that demand. That might be more data center space, or more servers and networks.”

The paper’s probably right in that Google is overdue to invest; the company originally spent $600 million to establish the site in 2006, but hasn’t poured more money into it. Will it? Given Google’s aggressive track record in capital spending, it seems likely.


Image: Google