Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with the permission of the News-Topic in Lenoir, N.C.

LENOIR, N.C. – From the scope of the project possibly getting larger, to the additional attention and interest from those outside the area, Google’s arrival into Caldwell County appears to be having a noticeable effect.

The county is featured this month in a prominent economic development trade publication, while a local realtor said the area has received heightened interest from people looking to make commercial property investments.

An Internet search engine leader, Google is in the process of building a $600 million data center in the Overlook Drive and Harrisburg Road area of Lenoir. The overall investment, which is taking place on more than 200 acres of property, is expected to create at least 210 full-time jobs.

Caldwell County and Lenoir officials were in Raleigh Wednesday to address a North Carolina Senate committee and defend the economic incentives offered to Google. The incentives include a 100-percent grant toward business property and an 80-percent payback on real estate for 30 years.

According to Lenoir City Manager Lane Bailey, Google’s 20-percent property tax share still will make the company the third largest taxpayer in the city. He also said the estimated tax value of the real estate – currently pegged at $120 million – could be much greater.

“I talked with (Google Senior Leader) Rhett Weiss, and he said he thought those numbers were low. He indicated that there very well could be $200 million in real property.

“We think that there is the potential for it to be more. The incentives are large, but the net (tax revenue) number for the city is also very large.”

For its part, Google has paid $3 million, split between the county and Lenoir, to help offset costs for the development of a transload site for the Caldwell County Railroad. In addition, the company has paid Lenoir $1.05 million toward its initial water usage. Google also has pledged to assist the city in expanding its water treatment plant from a capacity of 12 million gallons per day to 18 million gallons per day.

Meanwhile, a local real estate agent is reporting a brisk business that he credits to Google.

“We can attribute several of our sales recently to Google,” said Steve Lambrechts, an agent for Pennell Properties in Lenoir. “I think there has been a tremendous amount of interest in investing in Caldwell County. The whole situation is going to change the complexion of the county.”

Lambrechts said both local and outside investors have been buying commercial properties to be used as rental space to meet increased demand. He said he had one client from a Southern state who is planning to stay in the area for a couple of weeks to search for possible investments.

During her comments in Raleigh, Caldwell County Commission Chairwoman Faye Higgins touted the impact the Google project is having within the area. Aside from potential commercial and retail development interest, Higgins said the Caldwell Planning Department has received nine new permit requests for cellular communications sites at a cost of $5,000 each.

In addition, the county’s building inspections division has received approximately $150,000 from the company for building construction fees.

The project also is the focus of an article in Site Selection magazine, a trade publication from the Industrial Asset Management Council. Aside from the article, the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission (EDC), in conjunction with Duke Energy and Advantage West, purchased a full-page, color advertisement to promote Google and encourage other businesses to look at the area.

“Site Selection magazine is the No. 1 magazine in the economic development field,” EDC Executive Director John Howard said. “To have a two-page story about the project is a very choice thing for us to have achieved.”

Howard added that the enhanced publicity should benefit the EDC’s efforts at recruiting new or existing business to locate in the county.