Morgan County made history last week when a Morgan County Superior Court Judge approved a $42 billion bond deal—the largest bond issuance ever recorded in the State of Georgia.
“As far as we know, this is the largest bond validation in Georgia’s history,” said Shane Short, the executive director of the Development Authority of Walton County.
On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Judge Amanda Petty signed off on the $42 billion Industrial Revenue Bonds for the Joint Development Authority (JDA), which is the four-county board tasked with overseeing the development of Stanton Springs. The JDA, comprised of Morgan, Walton, Newton and Jasper counties, secured the bonds for “a Fortune 500 company” currently operating under the codename “Morning Hornet.” Governor Nathan Deal will reveal the true name of the company at a press conference to be scheduled after Morning Hornet closes on the $15 million land purchase in Stanton Springs. However, it has been widely reported that the company is Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world, which boasts of more than a billion active users.
“We are still not at liberty to reveal the name of the company,” said Short after the bond validation hearing. “We are working out the final details of the land closing and then after the closing, the Governor will hold a press conference to announce the name of the company coming to Stanton Springs.”
Morning Hornet purchased 416 acres in the Stanton Springs Park in order to build a five-phased project that will result in a state-of-the-art data center, creating 500 jobs over the next two decades. Morning Hornet has five years to use up to $42 billion in bonds for the project. Once Morning Hornet closes on the land, Short expects the first building to be completed in 18-24 months.
The data center will be near the new $1 billion Shire plant and $14 million Georgia BioScience Training Center.
According to Short, even though the JDA secured the bonds for Morning Hornet, the JDA will not be liable to repay those bonds should the project fail.
“We are not on the hook for anything with the bonds,” assured Short. “There is absolutely zero obligation on behalf of the JDA or any of the four counties. The company is responsible for every dollar should anything happen. Although we back the bonds, we are not responsible for those bonds…We will be the title-holder, but in name only.”
During the bond validation hearing, when Judge Petty asked if anyone in the audience objected to the bonds, no one spoke up.
“We were very excited to hear that,” said Short. “Since no one spoke against it, we took that to mean that we have community support on this.”
Short believes the four counties will soon be reaping the benefits from this deal and other deals on the horizon.
“It’s a great investment for all of our communities, all four counties,” said Short. “We look forward to a long-term working relationship with this company and we think the citizens are going to be very proud when they find out exactly who it is,” said Short. “I am excited about the future of the Stanton Springs Park and where we are headed. There will be more industries in the area, which means more investments and more jobs for our people.”
According to Short, both the recent $15 million land sale to Morning Hornet and future $88 million in PILOT payments (payments in lieu of taxes) will be rather lucrative for the four counties. Over the next two decades. Morgan County is entitled to 15 percent of that $88 million, which amounts to $13.2 million.
The money from the land sale will be used to pay off the debt service payments on Stanton Springs Park, which all four counties pay annually. With the debt paid off, Morgan County will save $90,000 a year in debt service payments. The deal has also opened up other parts of the park for development, which could specifically benefit Morgan County.
“Not only will your debt service payments be eliminated, but the rest of the money from the land sale will allow us to extend Shire Parkway all the way into Morgan County, which will also benefit your county,” said Short. According to Short, the extended parkway will open up another 500-600 acres to sell to other financially-lucrative companies, which will yield more profits for Morgan County through land sale revenues, future property taxes and job opportunities.
Although local and state officials have yet to confirm that Facebook is behind the Morning Hornet project, the news was leaked to multiple news agencies, including the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Assuming Facebook is company setting up shop in Stanton Springs, the social media giant has publicly committed itself to building all future data centers with an significant environmental conscience. Facebook’s data centers have been dubbed as “the most advanced, energy- and water- efficient data centers in the world.” Facebook has pledge to build all future data centers to run on 100 percent clean and renewable energy.
According to Facebook’s website, the company “sought to revolutionize data center design to maximize efficiency and reliability. By rethinking and reengineering everything from servers to cooling systems, [Facebook] designed and constructed a new data center that was 38 percent more energy efficient, cost 24 percent less to build and run, and used 50 percent less water than a traditional data center. With every data center we build, we iterate on our designs to feature increasingly efficient and scalable infrastructure.”
“We’re committed to powering our operations—including all future data centers—with 100% clean and renewable energy (CaRE). All of the data centers we’ve built since 2013 are powered with CaRE, and access to cost-effective CaRE is one of the primary factors used in selecting our new data center locations. We also believe that to create meaningful change we have to go beyond our own walls, which is why we’re part of a collaborative initiative working to green the grid for all by making it easier for companies to procure CaRE.”