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Facebook-Rutherford Community Action Grants

FOREST CITY — Local officials joined the Facebook data center manager Tuesday morning to announce a new grants program that will distribute up to $200,000 in awards this year to eligible nonprofits in Rutherford County. The social media giant is funding the grants.

George Henry, the general manager, said The Facebook-Rutherford Community Action Grants will use money set aside as part of an agreement between the company and the county to bolster community nonprofits based on the recommendations of a formal grants committee made up of Facebook representatives and local leaders. 

The application deadline is Aug. 1, and grants will be awarded in the fall. He said some people steer away from applying for grants because the application process is difficult and lengthy.

“This is very easy to do,” Henry said.

“Facebook is committed to playing a positive role in Rutherford County and all the communities where we operate,” said Henry, manager of the $450 million data center going up outside Forest City. “We work globally, but live locally — and we want our larger success to help strengthen our hometowns,” Henry said during a press conference at Ol’ Blue’s barbecue.

“This is an exciting day for Rutherford County,” County Manager John Condrey said as he introduced Henry.

Rutherford County Commissioners chair Bill Eckler joined Henry and other members of the grant committee at the news conference. Also on hand were committee members Faye Hassell, executive director, United Way of Rutherford County; Tom Johnson, executive director, Rutherford County Economic Development Commission; Condrey; Thad Harrill, vice president of Community and Work Force Education and Institutional Advancement at Isothermal Community College. 

The committee will review funding requests by local 501c3 organizations, schools and colleges that meet the eligibility guidelines described at a new tab on the Rutherford Data Center Facebook page: facebook.com/RutherfordDataCenter.

The committee’s criteria will include the number of Rutherford County residents served by the organization and the proposed program, how well the services of the organization and proposed program match the needs of county residents and how closely the program addresses Facebook priorities such as using technology in education and economic development.

“In 2010, as we worked with Facebook officials on deciding where to locate, one of things that struck everyone was Facebook’s deep interest in the local community, not just the facts and figures of its land purchase,” Condrey said.

“Facebook consistently stated how much it wanted to be a part of and assist the community where it located. They’ve put that commitment into action today, and Rutherford County is all the better for it.”

Henry, who has worked in data centers for more than 15 years, provided an update on the Facebook construction in Rutherford County.

“Big changes have come to the parcel of land that is quickly becoming the home of Facebook’s Rutherford County data center,” said Henry. “Some things are easily seen, like the demolition of the long-vacant Mako Marine Building. Others are more subtle, but absolutely essential, like our ongoing work to the site’s electrical substation.”

More than 440 people have worked on the construction phase of the Facebook data center, totaling almost 400,000 man hours, including more than 22,000 last week.

The data center in Rutherford County will use technology developed as part of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, launched in April, as a way to transform the energy efficiency of global data centers by sharing innovations with the entire computer industry.

The technology delivered a 38 percent increase in energy efficiency at 24 percent lower cost for Facebook, the company says. All companies now have access to the technology and can contribute their own innovations.

Construction continues on the data center and will wrap up in early 2012. 

Many construction subcontractors are still hiring qualified applicants. More information can be found on the data center’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/rutherforddatacenter.