Facebook to give its employees Facebucks

Facebook is planning to give its employees Facebucks: specialized credit cards good for use at local businesses. It's all part of the social networking giant's move to Menlo Park.
Written by Emil Protalinski, Contributor

In February, Facebook plans to launch a new program called Facebucks, which essentially gives the company's employees specialized credit cards good for use at local restaurants, bookstores, and other businesses. 50 of the company's employees participated in a trial run last month.

The new information comes as part of an economic impact study commissioned by Facebook and conducted by Brion & Associates, according to Almanac News. The social networking giant wants to show how much good it will do for San Mateo County, when it moves to its new Menlo Park address at 1 Hacker Way.

The study, led by urban economist Joanne Brion, used 2009 economic data to examine the direct impact and the "economic multiplier" of Facebook's expansion. She helped estimate the potential number of new jobs, retail spending, and other activity.

On the city level, the analysis predicted 2,441 temporary jobs related to construction over four years, or $366 million into the county's economy, with $250 million directly spent on construction costs, according to the report. "One of the unique things about Facebook is that they hold a lot of events," Brion told Almanac News. "So they generate quite a bit of demand for lodging. We worked with staff (to estimate) how many events, how long people stay, and how many visitors."

According to the study, Facebook needs an additional 14,000 hotel room nights per year to accommodate all those visitors, generating $1.95 million a year in Menlo Park and $3.0 million county-wide. That comes out to be $300,000 annually in transient occupancy taxes. That figure doesn't take into account vendors and potential advertisers who travel to Facebook headquarters, since no department at the social networking giant has been tracking those visits, according to Almanac News. On the other hand, these numbers will only be possible if the city and county manage to build enough hotels to accommodate Facebook's guests.

While Facebook is working hard to bring local vendors to its new Menlo Park campus so employees can get services without leaving the site, that doesn't mean the workers will never leave. Overall, the economic analysis predicted an annual $28.9 million bump to retail spending thanks to visitors as well as Facebook employees. That's about $293,000 in sales tax for local cities, including Menlo Park.

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