Aurora City Council OKs tax waiver in bid to land Chase data center

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AURORA | Aurora could soon be home to a massive data center for JP Morgan Chase, not to mention the high-paying jobs that come with it.

This undated photo provided by Google shows a Google data center. (Google via AP)According to city documents, the banking giant is looking to add similar data centers around the country and has zeroed in on Aurora as one of the ideal spots for one of the facilities, which store vital customer information.

Maura Cordova, a spokeswoman for the company at their regional offices in Arizona, said a site hasn’t been chosen yet, but the company hopes to be up and running in Aurora within two to three years.

“We’re excited about the possibility of bringing this investment to Aurora,” Cordova said in an email. The company plans to build the new site from “the ground up,” she said.

The city is working on a tax incentive plan that would refund about $11 million in tax revenue for the company as long as they meet certain employment requirements.

Chad Argentar, of the city’s planning and development services department, said Monday that the Aurora site would have to employ 20 people in the first three years and 30 after that to qualify for the waiver.

The median wage at the site would be about $75,000, according to city documents.

The plan got initial approval from city council at Monday’s meeting.

Despite its hefty $11-million price tag, the incentive package sailed through council. Not only did it pass with unanimous support, but council discussed the matter in an open meeting for just a couple minutes before signing off.

Wendy Mitchell, executive director of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said the project is an important one for the city.

Mitchell said city officials have been working with Chase on the project since last summer.

While a location hasn’t been nailed down yet, Mitchell said the center will likely be somewhere along the E-470 corridor.

With salaries averaging close to $75,000, Mitchell said the project is especially important for the city.

“That’s a very nice salary, that’s certainly more than most jobs that have come in in the last year,” she said.

While the project will max out at around 30 jobs, Mitchell said that is pretty common for data centers. While they don’t have as many employees as warehouses or other projects, the employees they do have require a very specific skill set and earn substantial wages.

Facilities like the data center Chase is planning require heavy investments in broadband infrastructure, and Mitchell said the hope is that once Chase builds theirs, other companies will follow.

The tricky part from an economic development standpoint, she said, is luring that first company.

“Nobody wants to be a pioneer,” she said. “So the first one in is always the most difficult to get.”

The deal with Chase comes on the heels of two other marquee names announcing plans for Aurora this year: Virgin Airlines and Amazon. Virgin is moving some call center operations to Aurora while Amazon is building a warehouse here.

Attracting businesses with a global footprint is one of AEDC’s goals this year and Mitchell said the Chase project is part of that.

“Aurora is really coming into its own and starting to recruit top-level companies,” she said.

The number of data centers around the country has grown substantially in recent years and, according to an Associated Press analysis last year, many of those projects have relied on tax incentive deals like the one Aurora is working on with Chase. According to AP, government officials extended nearly $1.5 billion in tax incentives to hundreds of data-center projects nationwide during the past decade.

The AP reported at least 23 states now have specially tailored incentives for data centers, most of which have been enacted or updated in the past five years, and at least 16 others have used general economic-development programs to offer them incentives.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.