Fulton rolls out welcome mat for Microsoft data center
By Maggie Lee
Tech giant Microsoft is eyeballing Palmetto for a data center — and maybe another one nearby. A Fulton board voted to welcome said data center with a property tax break worth $14.5 million over 10 years.
“This incentive is especially critical, since other communities in other parts of the country and other parts of the state are competing for this project,” Development Authority of Fulton County Executive Director Al Nash told his board Tuesday of Microsoft Project I.
If Microsoft comes to Palmetto, the data center would employ about 20 people at a site along Johnson Road just west of Interstate 85.
A data center is attractive to a city or county because the facility will eventually pay a full property tax bill that funds schools and public services — but without putting the wear and tear on public roads or sewers that might come with something like a distribution center.
Counties, cities and states across the country routinely offer various kinds of tax breaks to businesses that promise to build new facilities or hire people.
Fulton’s metric for property tax breaks is this: the new facility must be valuable enough to pay five times the property taxes of whatever it’s replacing.
DAFC board members have been known to vote down a property tax break — like for a proposed office building in Buckhead.
But Buckhead is a property market that pretty much stays in-demand and has a big property tax base already, compared to Palmetto.
Nobody objected to the Microsoft deal — it passed the board unanimously.
The board also gave the OK to offer an identical property tax break for a potential Microsoft “Project II” that the company may seek to do in a yet-undisclosed south Fulton location.
Microsoft has been busy in Atlanta lately. In September, the Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported that buyers affiliated with Microsoft bought the roughly 70 acres between Bellwood Quarry and Bankhead Highway that were supposed to have become the Quarry Yards mixed-use project.
In May, Microsoft announced it would open an Atlantic Station office of about 500,000 square feet for some 1,500 employees. (Microsoft will be in Atlantic Yards, a building that has a property tax abatement worth $9.7 million over 10 years.)