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Facebook Friends Austin, But It's Complicated

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Facebook is coming to Austin with plans to create 200 jobs, according to the Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office. Perry announced today that the state would offer $1.4 million in incentives through the state’s Emerging Technology Fund Texas Enterprise Fund if Facebook chooses Austin its first big U.S. expansion location. That’s right — if.

The Austin expansion and the ETF TEF funding is conditioned on a city incentive package worth $200,000. The city will vote in March on whether or not it will approve the incentives, likely before South by Southwest, which starts on March 12. If all goes well with the city approval, a Facebook spokeswoman says the company could open an Austin office in May for its online operations team. Meanwhile city documents and Facebook say that the  company is still exploring other locales.

Facebook, which employs 1,200 people and has 400 million registered users, is following in the tradition of several Silicon Valley companies by locating deep in the heart of Texas. Google (s goog) actually opened an Austin office in 2008, but then backpedaled a few months later. Intel (s intc), Borland Software and AMD (s amd) have all had public Austin expansion plans, sometimes followed by equally public contractions.

However, I’m irritated by the use of incentives to draw Facebook to Austin, even as I realize that it could help our local tech community. I feel like Austin is a strong enough contender to stand among the top cities for a Facebook’s expansion given our talent, lower cost of living and “hip” vibe, and I hate the arms race and entitlement among corporations that the practice of offering incentives perpetrates.

Anyhow, welcome to Austin, Facebook. As a tip, don’t try to build anything above the Edwards aquifer, and you’ll be fine.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user Igor Bespamnatyov

19 Responses to “Facebook Friends Austin, But It's Complicated”

  1. With job losses in a very weak economy and the challenge and pressure for State and local governments to create job, Facebook and the likes of Facebbok are in the drivers seat to craft the best incentive possible for them. Why not, we live in a free market and market forces dictate supply and demand situation. If they can get a deal, good for them

  2. I wouldn’t single Facebook out here, Stacey. As you probably know, many companies are holding local governments hostage, given the politics of job creation.

    Google had a similar case a few years ago in one of the Carolinas. It was quite controversial and the amount involved a much higher number than Facebook’s alleged incentive.

    Not that two wrongs make a right…

  3. Funny how Perry is cutting thousands of state and university jobs in Austin but is playing the fool for Facebook. No doubt the “on the take from business” city will vote in his favor. Lame. FU Perry.