Google has completed the latest phase of construction at its data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, bringing its total investment in its Iowa campus to $5 billion.
The investment milestone by Google is the latest data point on the extraordinary growth of the data center industry in Iowa, which is also home to Meta’s largest cloud campus and a massive build-out by Microsoft in West Des Moines. The Iowa cloud cluster shows the prominent role of the Midwest in cloud geography, providing a data distribution hub in the center of the United States.
This trend is spurring a data center building boom, pumping billions of dollars into towns across America’s heartland, where Iowa, Ohio and Nebraska have all emerged as data center destinations.
Google says its Council Bluffs data center is “one of its largest facilities.” The project has created jobs for over 900 people in a variety of full-time and external supplier roles, including computer technicians, engineers, and various food services, maintenance, and security roles.
“Google is proud to call Iowa home, and this continued level of investment in our data center facilities underscores our long-term commitment to the state and strong desire to be an active member of this community,” said Ryan Ackels, Site Lead at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs.
Local Officials Hail Community Impact
Google’s massive investment in Council Bluffs also highlights the economic development benefits and community impact of large data centers, according to local officials.
“Google’s $5 billion of capital investment represents an unprecedented financial commitment within the entire metropolitan area that is by itself staggering,” said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. “However, financial expenditure doesn’t truly quantify what having a partner like Google has meant to Council Bluffs over these past 15 years.”
Since 2009, Google has awarded more than $3 million to local schools and nonprofit organizations including efforts to expand computer science educations, the mayor said. The company has also been a contributing partner in BLink, the city’s free Wi-Fi network.
“Through these and many other ways, Google has helped to turn Council Bluffs into a hub for technology, innovation, and opportunity,” said Walsh.
“For more than a decade now, Google has been a partner in education innovation,” said Dr. Vickie Murillo, Superintendent of the Council Bluffs Community School District. “Google has made a lasting impact on our school community in a variety of ways, from the gift of 500 early-edition Chromebooks in a pilot phase, to the company’s critical support of the free community wi-fi network, to grants for equipment and training, and even sweat equity through volunteerism.”
Why Server Farms Love Iowa
Google kicked off the Iowa data center boom with its 2007 announcement of a new facility in Council Bluffs. It was part of the first wave of Google’s global deployment of massive data center campuses.
These cloud campuses are where hyperscale operators like Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon Web Services concentrate massive amounts of computing power in multiple data center facilities. These data center hubs enable companies to rapidly add cloud capacity and electric power, creating economies of scale as more workloads migrate into these massive server farms.
As Internet titans seek to distribute large files to support videos, gaming and virtual reality, the center of the country is proving to be the ideal place to add data center capacity. Placing data centers in the center of the country makes it easier to distribute content to major markets like Chicago and Dallas, reducing lag and buffering for streaming media like Netflix movies or Facebook videos. It also allows for data to move quickly to either coast, which can be important in application development.
Iowa has benefited from a confluence of factors that make it attractive to data centers, including its location, which provides low latency to deliver online services to the center of the country. The state has relatively low costs for land and utility power, and lower exposure to natural disasters than many areas of the nation, with low risk from hurricanes and earthquakes. Data center projects also benefit from incentive programs passed by the Iowa legislature.
Here’s an overview of the hyperscale development in Iowa.
- Microsoft has built a major cloud cluster in West Des Moines, Iowa, where it is developing three large data center campuses. The company has bought land for two additional campuses, which could bring another $2 billion in investment atop the estimated $3 billion to $5 billion that Microsoft has spent on its Iowa infrastructure.
- The Meta campus in Altoona is now the largest Facebook campus in the world, and has undergone seven expansion phases. In December, Meta announced new capacity that will boost Altoona to more than 5 million square feet of data center space, pushing it past the company’s Prineville, Oregon campus (4.6 million square feet).
- Apple plans to purchase 2,000 acres of land in Waukee for a cloud campus to support its iTunes and iCloud services. The first phase of the project will include two data center facilities that are expected to run entirely on renewable energy. The project has been postponed several times since its announcement in 2017, and Apple ‘s most recent timeline doesn’t anticipate delivery until 2027.