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Dekalb, IL is at the center of the metaverse with expansion of Meta's $1B data center Featured

Dekalb, IL is at the center of the metaverse with expansion of Meta's $1B data center Alex wong

Dekalb, Illinois is at the center of the Metaverse. Literally.  Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram decided to expand their already $1 billion dollar data center by another 2.4 million square feet. The data center will go from two to five buildings and will house servers and computer equipment – becoming just one of 17 data centers powered by Meta in the United States.

Meta isn’t the only large organization setting down roots in the city that sits 65 miles west of Chicago. Known mostly for its college town vibe (North Illinois University sits within the parameters of the city) it’s also home to General Electric, Monsanto (originally called DeKalb Corn) and Northwestern Medicine.

"We look forward to the future as we transform from being known as an agricultural community to one of the leading technological centers in the nation and we look forward to our future endeavors," said Dekalb county school district Superintendent Minerva Garcia-Sanchez.

The data center itself is set to create over 200 jobs in the community but the construction of the buildings themselves are already employing over 1,000 construction workers. “When you think about it, 1100 construction workers coming into our community, going to our restaurants, renting our apartments, buying houses, shopping in our grocery stores, I mean the economic impact has been absolutely phenomenal,” DeKalb’s mayor Cohen Barnes said.

But an increase to the economy isn’t all that Meta is bringing to DeKalb. In a news statement, Mayor Barnes stated, “The impact Meta has made within the City of DeKalb goes beyond just an economic one.” He goes on to say, “Since day one, they have made a concerted effort to make a larger impact on DeKalb, and I look forward, with this announcement, to seeing that partnership continue to grow over the years to come.”

Among the effort that Meta is putting into the city is both educational and environmental. Meta awarded a $50,000 Community Action Grant Program to non-profits and schools in DeKalb for educational purposes in the field of STEM. Not being able to say enough good things about Meta setting up shop in Dekalb – Mayor Barnes further explained, ““Once they graduate from high school or once they graduate from our colleges, the opportunity that we are going to be able to retain those students and help grow our community as well is absolutely phenomenal.”

Environmentally speaking – Meta is working to lower their carbon footprint. In partnership with Northern Illinois University Urbana-Champaign, Meta hopes to create a type of sustainable concrete with the help of artificial intelligence. According to Meta’s data center sustainability program manager Amruta Sudhalkar – concrete contributes to 8% of carbon emissions in the world. She proudly declared that since last year Meta has achieved a net zero operational emissions. “Data centers are an extremely mission-critical piece of infrastructure in today’s modern age,” Sudhalkar said. “But the construction and operation of these data centers has a carbon footprint and Meta is committed to addressing that carbon footprint,” she said.

Meta’s data center broke ground back in 2020 and since then the first two buildings are almost complete with construction on the additional three buildings having already begun. The entire project is set to be complete sometime in 2023.

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Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has been working in the marketing and data science field since 2015.

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