Facebook to NM: A big deal brings a future-oriented mega-brand, and hundreds of short term and dozens of long-term jobs. But what will it cost local and state taxpayers?
The latest national unemployment figures came out a few days ago, and only Alaska had a higher rate than New Mexico’s 6.6%. And while most other states have been lowering their unemployment rates, NM’s has been going up.
Last year, NM lost out to Nevada in a competition for a Tesla battery plant that would offer 6500 jobs. But that was last year.
This year, NM successfully wooed a brand just as futurific, Facebook, which has announced it will be building a new data center in Los Lunas, a village of 15,000 people, about half an hour south of Albuquerque.
“This is a huge economic opportunity,” gushed Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, congratulating his fellow-Republican NM Gov. Susan Martinez
How huge? How many jobs will be created? Everyone agrees, the big numbers are for the construction stage.
“Hundreds and hundreds” of construction jobs, guesstimates Gov. Martinez, as if there were beyond counting. But Los Lunas Mayor Charles Griegos, has counted and found “350 to 700 construction jobs over the next seven years.” 700 jobs…do I hear another bidder?
“The Los Lunas Data Center will support thousands of new construction jobs, said Facebook West Region Director of Data Center Operation, Ken Patchett.
Hmmmm, before we shoot off into the stratosphere, let’s consult the official estimate of the Los Lunas city government: “a $1.8 billion construction project creating 300 direct temporary jobs and just 50 permanent jobs.” Notes Albuquerque TV Station KOB: “That’s far fewer than the steady employment at the local Walmart distribution center.”
But Gov. Martinez isn’t thinking Wal-Mart. “This is probably,” she says, “next to Intel, one of the largest capital investments and construction and high paying jobs.”
But wait, Intel, like Tesla, the fish that got away, was about thousands of jobs…peaking well above 5000 in 2003 and still after years of decline still stands at 1900. And Facebook? Even by the most optimistic estimates permanent jobs would top out at 300.
And the price-tag, again? $1.8 Billion, but that’s not the controversy. The controversy is who’s going to pay that $1.8 Billion.
Joe Cardillo is ABQ Business First’s business intelligence reporter, covering the the latest in money, energy, economic development and more. For him, he says, “the question isn’t ‘what’s important generally’ anymore so much as it is for each reader to ask ‘How do I figure out what matters to me?’ and “What should I be doing with this information?”