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Opinion | The progressives won again

Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — will be building an $800 million data center in Alabama’s capitol city.

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A bunch of California liberals invaded Alabama on Thursday.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, announced during a ceremony at Montgomery’s white water park that it would be building an $800 million data center in Alabama’s capitol city. They will bring at least 100 permanent jobs and thousands of construction jobs. 

The announcement was celebrated by city and state leaders. Gov. Kay Ivey said she was proud to “accept Meta’s friend request.” 

Get it? Haha. Friend request. 

This is Meta’s second data center in Alabama. There’s also a $750 million data center in Huntsville. Ivey mentioned it as well, as she raved about the relationship between the company and the state of Alabama. 

Which raises one question: Was the hypocrisy of an entire legislative session, or two, apparent to anyone else who watched this press conference? 

I’m sorry, did we not just spend an entire session bemoaning and demeaning DEI? Did we not just spend two sessions barring the state from doing business with companies that believe in ESG? 

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Did we not have a secretary of state throw a phony hissy fit over the CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, offering up money to cover the costs of conducting safe and fair elections during the pandemic? 

Did I dream these things? 

Or are we once again witnessing the hypocritical results of Alabama political theater – the same play that’s been running for 200 years, in which the elected elites pit the poor whites against the minorities by conjuring up a make-believe advantage that’s going to the minorities. 

This year, it was DEI. 

Oh, the unfairness of diversity, equity and inclusion. How dare companies, governments, universities or anyone seek to create a diverse workforce by setting racial hiring quotas, said the people who have benefited since the beginning of time from racial hiring practices. 

So, the state of Alabama went on the attack over the last few months. The legislature passed a bill banning DEI programs at state universities. Lawmakers have kicked around the idea of banning state dollars going to recruit companies that have DEI programs. 

And yet, right there on the Meta website is a whole lengthy page praising the company’s DEI program and discussing the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

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But it gets even worse. 

Another page on the Meta website talks up the company’s devotion to … gasp! … environmental, social and governance standards. ESG!

Essentially, ESG is a scorecard for how well companies do at maintaining good environmental practices. It encourages companies to invest in sustainability by being more selective with who they do business with – specifically, prioritizing companies that are more environmentally conscious. 

Just last June, Ivey signed into law and praised a bill barring the state from doing business with companies that practice ESG. 

No matter how much Corporate America and the national media want to push their social issue of the day on folks, the state of Alabama will continue protecting both our values and our businesses,” Ivey said after signing the bill. 

But on Thursday, Ivey’s office put out a press release praising the Meta data center, and it, oddly, noted this: “Once operational, the facility will be LEED Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

“It will be supported by 100 percent renewable energy and reach net zero emissions. Meta’s sustainability practices have generated investments in renewable energy projects, and it has also supported Huntsville area schools and educational organizations with over 85 grants and sponsorships exceeding $4.2 million since 2019.”

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The Meta website also lists a variety of reports on its ESG efforts. 

I’m so confused. I thought DEI and ESG were awful, discriminatory practices that unfairly limited the job opportunities of white people and unfairly prevented companies who are destroying natural resources from doing business? 

Did I miss a news conference where we decided all of that was OK? Or was Ivey holding that shovel to beat those California libs back to ESG-land? 

Or – and hear me out here – are Alabama conservative lawmakers nothing more than play actors bouncing from phony outrage to phony outrage in an effort to hide the fact that they have zero actual policy ideas, no plans for economic development in today’s world and hope desperately that you’re dumb enough to always fall for these race-based, ignorant schemes? 

Thank God this state has a few decent, progressive mayors like Montgomery’s Steven Reed. It’s no wonder that his town is No. 1 in economic development in the state, or that the top five cities are all increasingly progressive outliers in this bastion of MAGA-dom. 

The fact is global companies, like Meta, don’t want to be associated with backwards, regressive bigoted governments. They know that the pathway to success in today’s business world is to embrace diversity and seek to leave the planet better than you found it. It’s what investors want. It’s what top employees want. 

And I know for a fact that’s exactly what Reed and the folks in Montgomery pitched. It has become a standard for them, showing would-be relocating companies that Montgomery is different, carries different values, believes in different things and is far more progressive than much of the rest of Alabama. It worked again. 

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The Meta announcement on Thursday was wonderful news for the state, and particularly for the folks in Montgomery. If it goes the way of the Huntsville location, it will grow and benefit the entire region for years to come. 

Thankfully, there were enough progressives around to make it happen.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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