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Ground broken for Yahoo! data center
By Thomas J. Prohaska
"This facility is going to be the single most efficient, environmentally friendly data center in the planet," vowed David Dibble, Yahoo! executive vice president of services for engineering and operations.
"We're just so happy they're here," Supervisor Marc cq R. Smith said at the ceremony, attended by scores of elected and appointed officials and a handful of Yahoo! executives.
"They're Western New Yorkers, everybody. They're the type of company that wants to get involved in the community," Smith said.
"We want to support the community in any way we can," Dibble told reporters. "It's a lot more than a slab and a building. It's a long-term relationship."
"You have chosen a great community," said State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane. "It's a choice you will not regret."
Smith said the facility is expected to open in September 2010.
Dibble, whose family hails from Ellery Center in Chautauqua County, said 75 jobs will be created in Lockport, and almost all of them will be local hires, not transfers from other company locations.
Dibble said the jobs haven't been posted yet on the Yahoo! Web site, but he said the first jobs to be filled probably will be a couple of human resources positions to spearhead the other hiring.
"They're going to dedicate a team to this area," Dibble said. "We may seed the location with other Yahoos."
As for construction jobs, Dibble and project manager Soechgen Mulia both cq said about 250 will be needed, and the majority will be electricians.
Robert Connolly, business manager of Laborers Local 91, estimated that 50 to 100 general construction workers will be needed. He said he'd talked to the general contractor and was satisfied that most will be union workers.
Terence Deneny, cq vice president of Structuretone, cq the New York City-based general contractor, said most subcontractors have yet to be hired. He said work on the site will begin next week.
There have been a few minor design changes for technical reasons. Mulia said the first phase will cover 120,000 square feet, and the final facility will total 190,000 square feet.
Dibble said the company's agreement with the New York Power Authority, which supplied 15 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power to the project, commits Yahoo! to creating 125 jobs in the state.
Fifteen megawatts of electricity is amount needed to power 15,000 average-sized homes at any one time.
The first 75 jobs are pledged for the Lockport site, Dibble said, but others might go elsewhere. "There are hundreds of Yahoo! employees in New York, mostly at the other end of the state," he said.
"There was plenty of competition from other states, but the promise of 15 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power from the NYPA Niagara Power Project was critical to Yahoo!'s decision," Power Authority trustee Elise Cusack said. "Only New York � and only Western New York � could offer the unmatched economic benefits of Niagara power."
Dibble said the hydropower was crucial. "We are building a facility that's going to consume a lot of power, there's no question about it," he said.
A 115-kilovolt transmission line will be installed by New York State Electric & Gas Corp. Mulia said the exact route is still being determined.
Dibble thanked U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who did not attend the ceremony, for "removing some roadblocks and greasing some skids." Schumer went public with a pricing dispute between Yahoo! and Verizon over a fiber optic line, a dispute that was settled soon thereafter.
Without fiber optic phone lines, a massive Internet center could not function. Smith said such facilities might make the industrial park attractive to other companies.
"We have a lot of fiber in the area and a well-trained work force," Smith said.
The Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency sold Yahoo! a vacant 30-acre parcel in their industrial park off Junction Road for $450,000. The IDA also provided an 20-year property tax break which included a 100 percent tax exemption for the first 10 years.
Maziarz said town officials, past and present, deserve some credit for having an industrial park ready to take on a project of this size.
"The Lockport Town Board over the years, investing in the infrastructure of this park, is what made it possible for Yahoo! to make the decision," Maziarz said.
Several speakers remarked on how fast the deal was done. Smith said it took about four months from the time Yahoo! first started sniffing around Lockport to the final agreement.
Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, said that was impressive and mandatory.
"In the private sector, when an opportunity arises, you've got to move quickly," Lee said.
"It's a great day for the community," Town Councilman Paul W. Siejak said. "Hopefully, we can springboard off this and take it from there."