Monday, July 18, 2011

Prineville, Oregon: Silicon Valley's rural outpost?

Facebook recently sited a server farm in nonmetropolitan Prineville, Oregon, a place that was previously (and perhaps still) best known for its "rowdy summer rodeo." Prineville is smack dab in the middle of the state, in a high desert region where another type of farming--ranching, that is--has dominated the economy. American Public Media's Marketplace featured a segment about the Facebook move on today's program. You can listen here. In it, Mitchell Hartman of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports details of the economic deal that was cut to attract Facebook to the area:
Under a property-tax exemption worth millions to Facebook, the company has to employ at least 35 full-time workers.
Currently, Facebook is employing 47 full-time employees in Prineville, including some senior managers it moved in to run its outpost there. The Facebook workers at the server farm earn an average of "$53,000--1.5 times the typical county wage." In addition, those 35 (or more) full-time jobs beget other jobs, helping grow--or at least sustain--a rural economy. Hartman reports:
Realtors say the local housing market is picking up. And the dry climate, available workforce, and local tax breaks have enticed several other tech firms to consider building data centers here now that Facebook's put Prineville on the map.
Prineville's population is about 10,000, about half that of all Crook County, for which Prineville is the county seat.

This Facebook-in-Prineville story reminded me of this report out of India a couple of years ago--about establishing village outposts of the call centers and other outsourcing operations now so closely associated with that nation.

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