'Silicon Prairie' gets a boost from Google's plans

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The announcement by Google was short on details but long on potential for the Cornhusker state.

The company said it was spending $13 billion on new and expanded data centers, including one in Nebraska. Actually, a map showed two spots in the Omaha area, but again, details were short.

“Nebraska has built a reputation for itself as the Silicon Prairie and a hub for tech companies, startups and entrepreneurs,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts in reaction to the news. “Today’s announcement from Google underscores that reputation and will bring great opportunities for Nebraskans. We appreciate the work of all the partners who teamed up to successfully promote Nebraska as the destination for Google’s next investment.”

The Omaha World-Herald reported in December that a large data center project called “Project Wizard” would be located on a 275-acre site northwest of Highway 50 and Schram Road in Sarpy County.

It’s already home to computer farms for Facebook and Travelers Insurance, Yahoo is nearby and Council Bluffs already has two Google data centers.

The Nebraska Data Centers hub in Omaha points out many advantages to locating such facilities in Nebraska, including central location for quick travel from either coast, cheap, plentiful, reliable power free from disruptions like hurricanes or earthquakes, low cost of real estate, a stable economy, location on the original east-west fiber backbone and relatively low cost of living.

But there are political considerations as well, as Google and other tech giants look to expand into cloud-computing while facing increasing privacy concerns.

Wednesday’s announcement that it would spend $13 billion and employ “tens of thousands” of full-time workers, coupled with its expansion into 24 states by the end of the year, will help expand its political influence in red states as well as its traditional blue power base.

Whatever its long-term plans and motives, Google’s investment in the home turf of the Ricketts and Buffett families can’t hurt.

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