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Government The Almighty Buck Technology

Oregon Residents Riled Over Virtually Staff-free Data Centers Getting Tax-breaks 158

An anonymous reader writes: The population of Hillsboro, Oregon is becoming vocal about the state's enterprise zone program offering enormous tax concessions to companies setting up data centers in the region — even though the five-year deals on offer only require data center operators to employ one person. That's exactly as many people as one DC plant, Infomart Portland, employs full-time, yet it gets more tax relief than highly-staffed enterprise zone neighbor Solarworld. The current influx of data centers to Hillsboro have only generated seven jobs to date. More installations are coming, and all Hillsboro residents are seeing is space taken up that might have gone to businesses that give something of benefit to the community.
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Oregon Residents Riled Over Virtually Staff-free Data Centers Getting Tax-breaks

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  • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononl ... Nom minus author> on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:02PM (#49076593) Journal
    Finally people are waking up to the fact that the digital revolution doesn't necessarily create jobs, jobs, jobs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:07PM (#49076635)

      I hear that it frees up people to do more creative things though. ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Did this same one person build the Data Centre? Lay the concrete, build the walls, install the Air-con, the electrical, the plumbing? I'm pretty sure there's more than 40 hours a week worth of work in constructing one of these things.
      • Building like that are built in a few months, and most of the workers only do a part of the job, and then move on to the next job.
        • So all those builders got paid though right? I mean it still a job that wasn't there before, and if the data centre building industry is growing, then there's more and more work for the people who design and build them.
      • Did this same one person build the Data Centre? Lay the concrete, build the walls, install the Air-con, the electrical, the plumbing? I'm pretty sure there's more than 40 hours a week worth of work in constructing one of these things.

        And somehow this translates to property tax exemptions how? There are other businesses that went through the same construction costs, that created more permanent jobs and that end up (or ended up) paying more taxes during the same tax period these tax breaks occurred. From a sensible, logical point of view, how to we justify that?

        Notice that I'm saying "justify", not "explain" because I can explain anything away with a barrage of cynicism. Justification, the rationale behind something, however, that is w

        • Oh, there's no justification. I agree the whole process is corrupt as balls. I'm just pointing out that there was more than one job created here. However temporary, a lot more than one person got paid for this project.
    • It creates construction jobs. It also creates new jobs that previously didn't exist. Also where the digital revolution displaces people it means those people are now free to work on other things.

      The human race is expanding at an ever increasing rate. The faster we can replace meaningless service jobs, or augment construction jobs so construction can happen faster, more easily or on more fronts the better off we are.

      • Construction creates temporary jobs. The workers work for a few months on a building that can last for decades. And the digital revolution is no longer creating more jobs than it destroys.
        • Construction jobs are not temporary. These people don't come out of the service industry, build something, and then go back. Construction jobs are on-going with expanding infrastructure.

          Technology on a macro scale does not displace jobs. It moves them around and increases human efficiency. It now takes less people and less time to build a building compared to 50 years ago. That does not mean there are less people working now, it means there are more building projects happening at a faster pace.

          • Construction jobs are not temporary. These people don't come out of the service industry, build something, and then go back. Construction jobs are on-going with expanding infrastructure.

            Tell that to the construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing bubble burst. A lot of them went into service industries to make ends meet. Others simply couldn't find jobs.

            Also, building out infrastructure takes capital investment. Since it's not a "pay-as-you-go" proposition, it's funded by debt, which increases taxes. Much of the cost is materials, not labour, and those materials (cement, structural steel) come from other countries.

            • I would gladly tell them that. I work in construction management. Our biggest problem is not getting enough people continuously. The primary problem for people who are in construction is that they chose a career which doesn't have a fixed home base. I know construction workers who exited the industry because they didn't want to move to another project. Well that is part of the job description, much like a taxi driver can't work from a home office. Frankly if there's anyone in construction out of work at the

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      If anything, the digital revolution obviates the need for tedious, drudgerous work. In the 1960s that was George Jetson speak! Poor George had to work an entire hour per day! [wikipedia.org] But now that we've adopted far-right, archaic ideology and let the super-wealthy get all the spoils of the digital revolution, suddenly "eliminating drudgery" means "eliminating jobs".

      The digital revoluion is set to disemploy up to 50% of Americans over the next 2 decades [economist.com]. It's going to get lots worse before it gets better. That is, u

      • That is, unless you are a software engineer.

        Hahahahahahahahaha ... guess you didn't follow all the links in all the articles to supplementary material. One makes a darned good argument for the elimination of writing software by having computers do it. And why not - a computer can mix and match billions of code snippets already written and brute-force the "creativity" out of creating software by testing each one. I give it 20 years.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by hawguy ( 1600213 )

          That is, unless you are a software engineer.

          Hahahahahahahahaha ... guess you didn't follow all the links in all the articles to supplementary material. One makes a darned good argument for the elimination of writing software by having computers do it. And why not - a computer can mix and match billions of code snippets already written and brute-force the "creativity" out of creating software by testing each one. I give it 20 years.

          If you have a library of 25 code snippets and need to find the magic order to combine just 10 of them to do your task, that's around 1.1 x 10^13 combinations that need to be tested. So around 10000 more than a "billion".

          if you have a library of 50 code snippets and need to find the magic order to combine 25 of them to do your task, that's around 2 x 10^39 combinations. If you can test a billion billion (1e18) every second, it would still take 60 trillion years to test them all.

          I don't think brute forcing

          • If your code snippets are all working modules (not just functions) will well-defined inputs and outputs, the brute-forcing takes on a different meaning - combining modules that have the appropriate inputs and outputs with each other. Entirely doable.
            • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

              If your code snippets are all working modules (not just functions) will well-defined inputs and outputs, the brute-forcing takes on a different meaning - combining modules that have the appropriate inputs and outputs with each other. Entirely doable.

              That doesn't change the numbers - if you have a reasonably sized library of code modules and try to brute force an app by putting them together randomly to see what you end up with, it's going to take an obscenely long time. And it's not even clear how this code writing AI will know when it gets a useful app -- It may create a working calculator app that can only calculate the cosine of base 13 numbers... it's a valid app, but is it a useful app? How would it know? What about the billion other apps that do

              • Example - you have several different database crud operation code modules to choose from.

                You also have several different database user interface to pick from.

                Additionally, you have several database schemas to choose from, including different indexing options depending on what is important to get fast, the mix of reads, deletes, writes, and rewrites, etc..

                And several data input modules - keyboard, external data feed, whatever.

                And several logging modules, each compatible with the back end.

                And several dif

                • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

                  Example - you have several different database crud operation code modules to choose from.

                  You also have several different database user interface to pick from.

                  Additionally, you have several database schemas to choose from, including different indexing options depending on what is important to get fast, the mix of reads, deletes, writes, and rewrites, etc..

                  And several data input modules - keyboard, external data feed, whatever.

                  And several logging modules, each compatible with the back end.

                  And several different error-reporting modules (do we put up a user alert and give a chance to edit it, do we not allow it and send a text message to a phone, whatever).

                  It would be able to give a list of data we want, like Name, etc. without specifiying the data size or internal type, because that's all been standardized (last name, first name, middle name, etc).

                  Given the requirements in more or less plain english, it should be possible to come up with the optimal solution pretty quickly, since each module has standard interfaces to the others.

                  For example, I need a way to track a million people. The information that's mandatory is their name and address, date of birth, and gender. When the address changes, the old address should be preserved so that I can trace back if necessary.

                  Optional fields are cell number, email, home and work phone numbers, and 1 or more emergency contacts. When any of these change, the old ones should be preserved so I can trace back if necessary.

                  Initial input is via a record dump on a usb key stored in SDF format, with updates being done by either using the same method or by someone typing them in.

                  A sequential account number should be auto-generated for those records that don't have an account number from the initial dump. The account number is 2 letters, 6 digits, then 2 random digits to help detect bad account numbers.

                  I should be able to search by account number, name, or any phone number.

                  Input data from the initial dump should be flagged if not valid, and input data from later should only be entered if all required fields are there.

                  Auto-generating such an application should be doable now.

                  What you are describing now is not what you were describing earlier. Earlier you suggested that a computer could "mix and match billions of code snippets already written and brute-force" a program.

                  What you're suggesting now is that you want the computer to parse your natural language of a problem and turn that into a program.

                  Do you not see the vast difference between the two?

                  • Of course. One of the articles I found proposed to do brute force solutions, and given the terabytes of code out there, it should be possible. Even the creation of the original modules should be open to brute-forcing.

                    But note I described the results I wanted - not the code to achieve them. And since I've already written code to do it that way around the turn of the decade, and I don't have the resources to brute-force code creation, I'm figuring I'll go with automated code generation from a simple wish li

                    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

                      Of course. One of the articles I found proposed to do brute force solutions, and given the terabytes of code out there, it should be possible. Even the creation of the original modules should be open to brute-forcing.

                      Having terabytes of code to choose from does not make brute forcing any easier.

                      But note I described the results I wanted - not the code to achieve them. And since I've already written code to do it that way around the turn of the decade, and I don't have the resources to brute-force code creation, I'm figuring I'll go with automated code generation from a simple wish list.

                      Sure, natural language processing is becoming more refined and will continue to become more powerful. But that's not brute forcing - the natural language processor doesn't piece together random combinations of code to give you what you asked for, it already has algorithms to retrieve data from a database, perform transformations and updates, etc, so it puts together the code logically, not through blindly pasting code snippets t

                    • As I said, I don't have the resources to brute-force, so I came up with a better way. However, given enough resources (sometime before we reduce the solar system to computronium particles, I hope) others have already said it's possible.

                      For now, there's still room for humans :-)

                    • Isn't feasible for ME. Doesn't mean it isn't feasible for someone with adequate resources.

                      Genetic algorithms are one form of brute forcing (as opposed to introspection/design) that can work.

    • by camg188 ( 932324 )
      From the slashdot headline:

      The population of Hillsboro, Oregon is becoming vocal about the state's enterprise zone program offering enormous tax concessions

      First sentence from the fn article:

      OregonLive readers reacted quickly to a story posted Monday morning outlining how out-of-state companies are building data centers in Hillsboro, attracted by massive property tax breaks.

      What a joke. The commenters on OregonLive now represent the entire population of Hillsboro? Half of the article is just reprints of

      • This can be said of all surveys that don't include 100% of the target population. The commenters certainly represent a cross-section of opinions from Hillsboro residents.
  • by DogDude ( 805747 )
    I'd be interested in seeing a poll of the number of people bitching about the lack of local jobs being created who also shop online.
  • by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:15PM (#49076693)
    I live in Hillsboro and have no complaints, though I have hardware in one of those datacenters so I may be biased. I think these articles are failing to account for the jobs created indirectly. I know a few folks that work for companies that have hardware in one of these local datacenters, in addition to traditional sysadmin jobs their duties include being on-call for hardware failures and the like. A at least one of these companies is fairly large and chose to come to Hillsboro and hire techs here because of the space available.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I would think a large datacenter would end up with a lot of ancillary jobs for electrical, HVAC, technicians to work with customer equipment, delivery guys to get the stuff there and so on. Even the best large single company data centers have all manner of stuff that needs fixing.

      • by thogard ( 43403 )

        That was true before the days of disposable servers. Today, when it breaks, drop it from the pool of working systems. The HVAC is on a lease contract which makes them far more reliable as the manufacture no longer gets s cut by selling parts that used to be used for maintenance. The same is true with power systems but the electrical wiring is massively overbuilt between the stuff under contract and the racks. I have a rack in a recently built data center and they have an electrician on site less often t

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If your city has a population of 100 residents then that may be ok. If not, then yeah that's not enough to keep everyone in the black so to speak. It does not take 10+ people to replace a blade server, or a failed hard drive. Definitely not full time and definitely not year round. Maybe for that one person, maybe, but he'll have other tasks assigned to him or he won't get paid for large portions of the year.

      That's the issue here, to go with what another poster said, that indirect jobs are created, hiring o

  • It could be worse... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:27PM (#49076769) Homepage

    I've actually lost count how many megachurches have been built on farm land in Upper Marlboro, MD. I assume the land must be cheap, as we have The First Baptist Church of Glenarden, which was built just 1.2 miles from Riverdale Baptist Church. And it's not to be confused with the First Baptist Church Upper Marlboro, which is about 8 miles away as the crow flies.

    All of these are non-profits, so there will likely never be any more tax revenue from them, and unless they also have a school (which Riverdale does), it sits nearly empty for most of the week.

  • by Cow007 ( 735705 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:36PM (#49076831) Journal
    If they want to put a rack in my flat in Beaverton this winter I would love the free heat
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A "flat" in Beaverton? You should really re-evaluate your vernacular... primarily because you live in Beaverton, Oregon where the only "flat" you're gonna find is of fruit or a pickup truck.

      • Right. This is just another example of the continuing annoying trend of Americans thinking its cute to use Anglophile vernacular, such as appending the word "bloody" onto sentences.
    • Looks like summer around here.
  • The problem is... (Score:4, Informative)

    by fhic ( 214533 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @08:08PM (#49077037)

    ... these local governments are still of the mindset that "industrial/technology" means factories, which means jobs. But as we all know, everybody that builds a datacenter wants as little staff as possible. A datacenter full of staff is seldom a good thing. When I walk past our datacenter on my way to work, if I even see the lights on or more than one car in the parking lot, I clench up, because I know it isn't going to be a good day when I get to my office on the other side of the campus.

    • Living here I can say I am frustrated by how much the local big businesses get big tax breaks simply by occasionally threatening to leave now and then. Nike, Intel, and now these datacenters. The rest of us, and other employers foot the bill to cover their shirked responsibilities to their communities.

      • Living here I can say I am frustrated by how much the local big businesses get big tax breaks simply by occasionally threatening to leave now and then. Nike, Intel, and now these datacenters. The rest of us, and other employers foot the bill to cover their shirked responsibilities to their communities.

        You mean the "shirked responsibilities" that would be being paid to the lowest bidder in Topeka or Wichita Kansas, rather than in Oregon, were it not for the tax breaks?

        The people who build data centers don't care where they are located physically; they care about taxes, land costs, and power costs. If power were more reliable in Kabul Afghanistan, and the local government a bit more stable, they'd be located there, instead.

  • are located in Hillsboro Or. Also located there is a major part of their design group and process science.

    The tax breaks were given to Intel, But in an an attempt by the county and city gov. to not look biased, I presume they extended the breaks to all tech. Of course, The companies are eating the infrastructure for lunch.

    • They should have taken a leaf out of Washington States book when it comes to company specific tax breaks - the breaks they wrote in for Boeing were written generically but were so specific for the Boeing 787 program that it could not apply to any other aircraft manufacturer. Number of engines, length of fuselage, number of seats, percentage of efficiency increase over previous generation, production to start no later than X etc etc etc. Literally, it could not have been taken up by anyone other than Boein

    • are located in Hillsboro Or. Also located there is a major part of their design group and process science.

      Almost all of the microarchitecture changes and die shrinks come out of Haifa, Israel. Not Hillsboro. The Itanium came out of Santa Clara, California. Willamette came out of Hillsboro (the Pentium 4, which was arguably a pretty big failure, with 35%-50% of the 115W power consumption lost to leakage power). There was also the well-know SMT issue, where the dispatch ordering was (effectively) random, meaning the IPC between SMT cores never really scaled very well. Prescott never really scale above about

  • Why no mention of part time jobs?
  • I really wish these tax deals didn't exist. I'm on the opposite end of this problem, living in New York. Taxes are high, cost of living is high, but in my opinion quality of life is high too. Florida, North Carolina and Texas constantly go trolling for companies in high-tax states (NY, CT, MA, CA, etc.) and bribe them to move. Some of these bribes are crazy, as in, "We'll build you a headquarters, give you free utilities for 10 years, and you'll pay zero property taxes." The problem is states end up playing

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