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AWS announces $12 billion plan for Portland data centres

Written by Wed 11 May 2022

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced plans to build five data centres in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, at an expected investment of $12 billion USD. The new facilities are planned for construction in Morrow County, along the Columbia River.

Each new facility will cost an estimated $2.37 billion, providing approximately 20,000 square metres of usable data centre space. Construction, and hiring for new jobs associated with these data centres, will begin at the end of 2026.

The company says that the new data centres will provide 600 new jobs for the region, paying an average of $75,000 each. Because of this addition to the local economy, Amazon has requested consideration in the form of hefty tax breaks.

Already the largest taxpayer in Morrow County due to the four existing data centres located there, Amazon has benefited from approximately $161 billion in tax breaks over the past five years. However, with the newly-announced plan, the company has reportedly asked the state for additional tax breaks to build the new facilities. If granted, the additional tax breaks could save Amazon hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 15 years – a request that is causing local communities to reconsider whether the company has been paying its share of taxes to date.

Rural areas, like Morrow County in Oregon, are attractive to hyperscale data centre providers like AWS due to the inexpensive land, cheap electricity, and ample water needed for power and cooling at large-scale processing facilities.

Tax negotiations are a critical part of the process though, allowing one rural area to outbid another by offering a break taxes to make them more attractive. For example, if Morrow County did not meet the AWS request for lower taxes, the company could easily find comparable land in the Tri-Cities area in nearby Eastern Washington State.

For example, Prineville, Oregon – a small city to the north of Portland – has attracted large Facebook and Apple data centres with large tax exemptions. Additionally, Prineville recently granted data hosting company EdgeConneX 75% off property taxes, with and additional cap on maximum payments.

An Amazon spokesperson noted, “AWS is proud of the work we are doing in Oregon. Since 2011, we have invested over $15 billion, contributed more than $66 million in tax and fee payments to the local community, and supported the development of 2,000 jobs.”

Written by Wed 11 May 2022


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