Facebook expanding Prineville data center

“Facebook is like an answered prayer to this community,” Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, said as lawmakers toured the facility on Tuesday.

After Les Schwab Tires moved their headquarters to Bend’s Juniper Ridge a few years back, now a second economic backbone of Prineville, Woodgrain Millwork, calls it quits. Lawmakers say adding technology as another part of the economy is vital for this community.

“Oregon has opened its borders to these tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon. I think that helps everybody in this state,” Hass said.

Ken Patchett, Facebook’s director of data center operations on the West Coast,  believes the company has done their part in boosting the local economy.

“When we moved here in 2010, we signed up to create at least 35 jobs at 150 percent of the median wage,” Patchett said. “We’ve got 147 jobs at this site right now. With the addition of the third building, there will be some more work as a function of that. But it’s 147 full-time jobs that weren’t here before.”

Patchett said Facebook expects to add another 10 to 15 jobs with the expansion.

“Not just any jobs,” said Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, the Oregon House Republican leader. “These are great jobs that pay well and have great benefits.”

Many former mill employees now work at Facebook. Prineville City Manager Steve Forrester said he met one just the other day.

“She said to me:  ‘I didn’t think there was life after the roof collapsed last year,'” Forrester recalled. “But she goes: ‘Now, I have a new job, I make more money and have better benefits.'”

Apple is also planning to expand its Prineville data center, and many say the passing of Senate Bill 611 laid the groundwork by eliminating uncertainty about taxes.

“It clarified the law and said: Here are the rules of the game,” McLane said.

Facebook and Apple gave a tour to lawmakers on Tuesday. However, Apple’s tour was not open to media. Apple officials are very tight-lipped around how many jobs they think their expansion might create.

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