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Apple counts $1bn for mystery data center

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Apple is prepping a new US data center that may cost as much as $1bn, which would nearly double what Google typically spends on the mega data centers backing its web-based applications and services.

Based on its price, the new server farm would dwarf the former WorldCom/MCI data center it bought in Newark, California back in 2006. Naturally, Apple must keep up with the growth of iTunes and the iPhone App Store and other online services, but a $1bn investment makes you wonder what else the famously-secretive company is up to.

Citing an anonymous official and a leaked memo, Associated Press reports that North Carolina lawmakers hope to lure Apple's data center into their east coast US state with a tax break worth $46m over the next decade.

The break would apply only to companies with a large share of their US property and payroll taxes in the state and a small share of US sales. According to the memo, no company meets the criteria today and the North Carolina Commerce Department is aware of only one that's poised to qualify.

It was no secret that lawmakers were flirting with a specific outfit, but this is the first time Apple has been mentioned. The company would have to complete its $1bn investment within 9 years.

Apple would have to build its $1 billion data center in one of North Carolina's poorest counties, provide workers with health insurance, and pay them certain wages. "The bill ensures it's going to go to an area of high unemployment," said North Carolina House Finance Committee chairman committee chairman Paul Luebke. "This reflects concerns many of us have had about economic development policy, that priority should be given to the neediest counties."

In 2007, North Carolina lawmakers offered Google an estimated $100m in tax incentives over 30 years if it would spend $600m building a data center in the sleepy town of Lenoir. Part of the center is already completed, and Google employs roughly 50 people at the site. But the company recently waved goodbye to one of its NC grants after slowing construction. Naturally, it cited volatile economic conditions. ®

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