Facebook has announced plans to begin construction this week on a $450 million data center in southwestern North Carolina, slated to open in 2012.
The facility near Forest City in Rutherford County will be Facebook’s second owned and operated data center in the United States, continuing the company’s efforts to move away from a leasing model and bring its infrastructure in-house, according to a company spokesman.
North Carolina bills the new Facebook project as the latest in a series of victories for a state that has been courting high-tech investments. Companies such as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) have already selected sites in the state for new data centers.
“We are proud that Facebook chose to make North Carolina a ‘friend.’ The feeling is certainly mutual,” North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement.
“The investment and jobs at the data center will be a boon to that region of the state, and will help confirm North Carolina’s distinction as a global business destination,” Purdue added.
Facebook expects the 18-month project to generate more than 250 construction and mechanical jobs. Once the data center is complete, it will employ 35 to 45 full-time and contract employees.
Facebook’s infrastructure expansion comes amid sustained growth for the world’s leading social network, which now boasts well over half a billion users. That massive base has made the privately held firm one of the preeminent Web companies, and cast it increasingly as a rival to other online giants, perhaps none more than Google.
Most recently, the two companies have been sparring over the relative openness and portability of their data policies. That row picked up again earlier this month, when Google changed its terms of service to prohibit any service from exporting Google contacts without in turn providing easy access to its own social connections, which Facebook does not.
Representatives of the companies have exchanged public statements criticizing one another’s stance in what looks to be shaping up as a feud over the social data that has emerged as a form of currency in the new Internet economy. Google, for its part, has been working on social features and services that have been widely interpreted as challengers to Facebook’s hegemony in the space, though Google has insisted that it is not interested in building a rival platform, instead focusing on making its current products more collaborative and interactive.
Meantime, Facebook is holding a major event at its headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday, where it is rumored to be planning to unveil a Webmail service that would inevitably compete with Google’s Gmail.