Microsoft To Invest $1 Billion In Data Center in Floyd County
Microsoft will invest $1 billion in a data center campus off Huffaker Road, it announced Monday during a Rome Floyd County Development Authority meeting.
The project, dubbed Project Firecracker, encompasses a 347 acre property on Huffaker Road that Microsoft will purchase at $40,000 per acre.
The authority voted to essentially act as the go between in the $1 billion deal by issuing industrial revenue bonds for the project alongside a 12-year partial tax abatement. That allows the authority to act as a bridge between the two parties and doesn’t represent any debt taken on by the authority.
Microsoft will pay property taxes as well as county school taxes on the increased value of the land. The abatements only cover the buildings and equipment. The 12 year abatement will include the buildings and a 9 year abatement will include equipment that will go into the data center.
“Everything that is abated is not there now,” RFCDA President Missy Kendrick said.
The company’s director of community engagement, Paul Englis, said they have committed to creating 150 new jobs at the data center, although he said that’s likely on the low side of the actual number.
“We tend to under promise and over deliver,” Englis said.
The data center will support the company’s cloud technologies and Azure business. Azure, a cloud computing platform run by Microsoft, provides access, management and application development and services through a network of global data centers.
The company worked with the authority to choose a site, conduct due diligence and bring the project to closing.
“This is a tremendous economic opportunity for our community that will have positive impacts for decades to come,” said Jimmy Byars, RFCDA chair.
Microsoft site selectors analyzed various sites across the U.S. and centered on the Huffaker Road site for several reasons.
“Rome and Floyd County’s industrial zoning and strong infrastructure led to our decision to locate our datacenter campus there. Today’s announcement is just the start of our mutual collaboration and Microsoft’s long term-term commitment to the local community,” Englis said.
The company also pledged that the cost of any additional infrastructure requirements — such as power, water, roads etc. — — will be covered by Microsoft.
“Ratepayers and taxpayers should not foot the bill for this project,” Englis told members of the authority.
They’re also seeking to invest in the community by way of community programs and technical training as well as prioritizing sustainability and minimizing any environmental impact from the project.
Emphasizing that the company wishes to be a part of the community, Englis said they want people to say “we’re really glad Microsoft is part of our community.”
The announcement Monday was years in the making, RFCDA President Missy Kendrick said. They began working with the owner of the property, Floyd County 118 LLC, in 2021 to rezone the property as Heavy Industrial.
Then the authority also stepped in to not only recruit a buyer but also facilitate the deal, she said.
“This is what economic development looks like,” Kendrick said.
What the campus will look like is still up in the air. However, what it will do is pretty well established.
Azure datacenters are located across the globe — although a large concentration is in the U.S. — and are all unique buildings that house a group of networked computer servers.
Englis described the center as one of 300-plus physical facilities, divided into regions, that provide the capacity for users to securely connect and not only perform business activities but also to do everyday things like co-edit a Microsoft Word document.
“The demand for cloud services is growing exponentially,” he said.
The property designated for the data center is located in unincorporated Floyd County just east of Fouche Gap Road. It’s across Huffaker Road from Georgia Power property and bordered by General Shale property.
While there is a 12 year tax abatement, the company would pay property taxes in the county as well as taxes to the Floyd County school system.
At this point, now that they’ve announced the location and are acquiring the land, the company will move to the design phase.
“It tends to be a multi year process,” Englis said.
That design phase will also include the community, as they speak with planners as well as host meetings to give progress updates.
“We’re committed to being transparent with you,” he told members of the authority and city and county governments. “We’ll work to keep you informed through small group meetings and larger community meetings.” The company will post updates to the project at local.microsoft.com.
Tentatively, the date for completion would fall likely in the 2027-28 range, he said. They’re expecting a year to complete the design phase and another year for the preparation phase. He estimated 18-24 months for the construction phase of the project.
As far as local schools are concerned, both Rome City Schools Superintendent Eric Holland and Floyd County Schools Superintendent Glenn White said they’re intrigued by the possibilities.
“Our college and career academy is ready to work with Microsoft and we’re excited about the prospect of working with them to develop programs at our school,” White said.