Jobs report: Microsoft might bring data center, high-paying jobs to Phoenix

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- One of the biggest names in the tech industry has set its sights on Phoenix for its planned expansion, which means more high-paying jobs could be coming to Arizona.

In terms of jobs, the state has been slow to recover from the Great Recession, which began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months.

State Sen. Jeff Dial has spent two years trying to bring Microsoft to the Phoenix-metro area. All that work might now be coming to fruition.

"Microsoft, they've been interested for the last several years in moving here to Arizona," Dial said.

According to an article in the Phoenix Business Journal, Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, wants to open a large data center in North Phoenix.

While Dial could not confirm the deal, he said such a project would bring something Arizona has been notably lacking -- high-paying jobs.

"With these types of jobs, there's less jobs than your typical thing," he said. "But the typical job pays around $70 to, you know, $90,000."

That's quite a bit more than Arizona's median household salary of $49,000.

Based on his discussions with Microsoft, Dial believes a data center would create up to 100 full-time positions. He said the company also plans to invest in a big way.

"They would probably build whatever they built here in phases, probably starting out with an investment of about $250 million," he explained.  "And each additional phase would be about $250 million, probably end up around $1 billion to $1.5 billion."

News of the potential Microsoft facility comes a month after Apple announced its intention to build a multi-billion dollar data center in Mesa.

Arizona needs all the work it can get as it has lagged behind the national average in job creation.

Right now, the unemployment rate in Arizona is a full point higher than that national average.

But getting those jobs could cost taxpayers. In 2013, Dial sponsored a bill that cut data centers a break on taxes. It's a break Microsoft probably will take.

"If they're buying $100 million worth of equipment, it's going to be about 8 percent, so $8 million is what I guess," Dial said. "It depends how big that is and I just don't have those details."

The incentive for Apple has been estimated at between $12 and $20 million.

Giving out another big tax break to Microsoft could be controversial given the fact that Arizona is facing massive budget deficits.

"The goal here is when you're doing these things is you can't give away the bank," Dial said. "You have to make sure that you're going to get enough return on the investment."