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Google hooks it up

Google hooks it up

In 2007, internet giant Google announced plans to build a server farm in tiny Lenoir, a city of about 17,000 in Caldwell County, the western part of the state. Rich in land, natural beauty and open space but poor in jobs and money — the median household income in 1999 was just over $29,000 a year — Lenoir suited Google’s purpose to a T. The company proposed a facility that would cost $600 million to build and could employ about 200 people — though most of the skilled positions would probably have to come from outside the city, as just two-thirds of Lenoir’s residents have high school degrees and 13 percent have earned bachelors degrees. Still the city — and the county, and the state — saw fit to kick in an incentives package worth more than $100 million over the next 30 years, and perhaps even $200 million depending on how much the company decides to spend. Google’s corporate presence in North Carolina did not pay taxes on the $7 million purchase of its Lenoir property, a site that is larger than 220 acres. It does not pay state sales tax on the computer equipment it purchases or the electrical power it uses — and it uses quite a bit. For the next 30 years, Google will not pay any business property tax, and its real estate tax burden has been lessened by 80 percent until 2037. Google also received a Job Development Investment Grant from the state and the county worth more than $4 million over 12 years. And as you can imagine, the whole thing is enough to make us go completely bananas. We don’t like economic incentives, generally speaking, especially for rich companies. And Google is a very rich company. It went public in 2004, garnering about $84 a share, pretty high for an initial public offering. These days, a share of Google is worth about $425, and it continues to rise — or, at least, not to crater in this tough stock market. Meanwhile, Lenoir is a poor town in a poor state — the average value of a home is less than $80,000, and unemployment as of July 1 is at 15.4 percent.

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