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Lockport data center plans $32 million expansion, new jobs

An undetermined number of new jobs will be added to the 250-member workforce at the Oath data center in Lockport, company executives said Tuesday.

The company, formerly known as Yahoo, will invest $32 million at its campus in the Town of Lockport industrial park: $28 million to erect a third data center and $4 million for electrical improvements at one of the existing centers.

The surprise announcement by Greg Sly, Oath's senior vice president for infrastructure services and operations, came at a news conference called to reveal winners of this year's round of corporate grants to community organizations, which were required as part of the massive incentive package that brought Yahoo to Lockport in the first place.

Last year Verizon Communications acquired Yahoo and several Yahoo-connected brands, including AOL and the Huffington Post, and set up Oath as a digital content subsidiary. The Yahoo name continues online through several websites.

"We're happy to continue to invest in this facility. It's an important one for us," Sly said. "We have such a great partnership with the community and leadership here."

The construction work should be complete in about eight months, Sly said. The work on the upgrades at the existing facility began Tuesday, he said.

The existing 100 percent property tax exemption for the second of the two data centers will apply to the new one, said Marc R. Smith, the town's economic development coordinator. That exemption began in 2014 and is to last for 20 years.

"We are very aware that our success in Western New York is a direct result of the area's talented workforce, business-friendly environment and access to renewable energy resources that are all abundant in this community," said Paul Bonaro, Oath's vice president for data center operations in Lockport.

The incentive package included an allocation of discount electricity from the New York Power Authority's Niagara Power Project.

Sly said he expects about 100 construction jobs for the project. The new Oath employees will be hired in phases over the next eight months, he said.

"We like the area and the facility here. It's very economical for us, and there's a great work force here, but we're continuing to integrate. Oath is a growing and expanding company, so we have more servers coming in," Sly said. "We're putting some Verizon services in here as well."

In addition, four AOL data centers, located in Virginia and California, are "collapsing" into the Lockport site, Sly said.

He said he foresees continued growth at the Lockport site. Bonaro said the company owns about 20 acres of open land there, in addition to about 45 acres that have been developed.

"We have such a great relationship and such great tax incentives already, we're just continuing to leverage those," Sly said.

About 110 of the Lockport employees work in a network operations center that replaced a consumer call center last year. The remaining 140 workers are involved in data center operations, Sly said.

"It's fantastic news for the Town of Lockport and also for Niagara County, actually for all of Western New York," said Paul W. Siejak, Town of Lockport deputy supervisor. "With all the grants announced today, what a win-win day for the Town of Lockport and the community altogether."

The 20 grants announced Tuesday totaled nearly $510,000, some chosen by Oath and others by Empire State Development through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. It was the fourth round of seven annual batches of grants the state required under terms of the incentive package.

Some of the larger grants included $82,615 to Green Options Buffalo for a bicycle master plan and its implementation in Niagara Falls, and $50,000 to Lumber City Development Corp. for façade improvements along Oliver Street in North Tonawanda.

Also, Oath gave $50,000 for improved lighting at the Taylor Theater in Lockport's Kenan Center, and $41,500 for an "air curtain" at the entrance to the Savor restaurant at the Niagara County Community College Culinary Arts Center in Niagara Falls, allowing for outdoor seating.

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