Niagara Gazette

October 19, 2013

Yahoo expansion underway

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Yahoo seems to like the Town of Lockport and Western New York.

The Internet giant broke ground Friday on its 150,000 square-foot, $170 million expansion in the town’s Industrial Development Park. And Yahoo officials did not hold back on the reasons why the multinational company chose to expand in Niagara County.

There’s the hydropower. Yahoo received 7.2 megawatts of low-cost power from the New York Power Authority, which is enough to power 5,000 homes. And that’s in addition to the 16 megawatts the datacenter already receives. After all, the datacenter is about the size of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier deck.

There’s the incentives. Yahoo is to receive a 20-year package of property tax and sales tax breaks for the expansion, a deal approved in April by the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency Board of Directors. The deal is a 20-year sales tax abatement for building materials and equipment, as well as 100 percent abatement of property tax for 10 years. The property tax exemption would then be reduced by 20 percent every two years for the next eight. Yahoo will also receive $2 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits from Empire State Development.

There’s the weather. The cool air is vital for the company’s “chicken coop” design cooling system. The coop will use the cool outdoor air to cool the servers, which is energy efficient.

Then there’s the workforce. Michael Draper, Yahoo’s senior director for customer experience and global operations support, lauded the datacenter employees in Lockport.

“The people that we have hired are amazing. I’ve hired people across the U.S. for Yahoo, the work ethic here, the people here... it’s truly amazing. It’s been just fabulous to see,” Draper said.

Yahoo currently employs 90 people in Lockport with an average salary of $50,000. The expansion will add 115 jobs, 100 of which will be located in Yahoo’s 24-hour customer care call center. The center will be built with a computer “pod” building, just like the current pods on the Yahoo property.

Construction on the expansion begins in December and is expected to take about a year to complete. The expansion will also have a second part, which will include the second half of the customer care center and a second pod. Work on the second part will be announced in the future.

The expansion in its entirety will adjoin the current Yahoo data center complex at the corner of IDA Park Drive and Junction Road in the town industrial park. All three buildings will be in the north east corner of the Yahoo property.

The datacenter will use 50 percent less power and 99 percent less water than the typical data facility, Yahoo officials said.

“This is going to allow us to continue to expand Yahoo’s product offering, making our users’ daily habits inspiring and entertaining for our 800 million users worldwide,” said Rich Kropfl, Yahoo’s vice president of data center operations.

Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Yahoo’s expansion was exciting for everyone in the area. Smith said he spoke recently with a new Yahoo hire, a Lockportian who was excited to start working.

“For me, it’s one of the reasons I got involved in politics, to make a difference,” Smith said.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who attended Friday’s groundbreaking event, noted Yahoo could have gone anywhere, but chose to build and expand in Lockport. The fact it happened was the result of state and local leaders working together, Duffy said.

“They chose to come here because of the teamwork,” he said.

Yahoo’s presence in Lockport could entice other companies to come to Niagara County, Duffy said to reporters after the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I think it gets a lot of people’s attention,” he said.