Over the past 15 years, Loudoun County has developed the largest concentration of data centers in the world. In fact, the second largest location in the United States, Silicon Valley, has half the amount of data center space that is available in Northern Virginia.
The fiscal impact of the data centers on our local economy cannot be overstated, with close to a half-billion dollars of annual county tax revenue coming from this industry. It’s also a good business deal for the county, as data centers return more than $15 dollars in tax revenue for every dollar of services the county renders, making this, by far, the best return on investment on county services.
What might go overlooked is the community impact of the data center businesses and workers. This is a more complete look at the impact of Data Center Alley.
Data Center Alley News
Economic Impact: Data Center Alley, By the Numbers
Loudoun is one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., requiring more schools, more roads and more services for the 31 new residents that move here EVERY DAY. Thanks to Data Center Alley, those services are covered and the tax rate keeps going down. Here's are four numbers that explain why:
The businesses and the employees of Loudoun’s data center ecosystem have had a major impact on our community in much more personal ways than might meet the eye.
The members of our data center community have long been focused on education and maintain a long-standing relationship with educational partners in the county, including Loudoun County Public Schools and Northern Virginia Community College. Recognizing the need to build the workforce of future data center operators, they have engaged directly with NVCC’s Sterling Campus to teach certifications that dramatically cut the time and the cost needed to be trained for a high-paying data center job.
Since 2012, 7×24 Exchange DC has provided more than $200,000 in college scholarships for students pursuing a career in relevant data center fields. The data center community has also provided LCPS high school students with insider access for job shadowing and internships. At the elementary school level, 7×24’s support of the Backpack Coalition has delivered hundreds of meals, thousands of dollars, and countless volunteer hours in support of food insecure students outside of the schools.
7×24 recently packaged more than 16,000 pounds of food from local families through a partnership with Loudon hunger relief, and delivered nearly 1,000 meals to COVID-19 first responders at an over Loudoun, while supporting local restaurants.
The members of the data center coalition have committed essential resources throughout our community, from support to educational and community health organizations to volunteer efforts with such organizations as Women Giving Back, the Special Olympics, Scouts, Wounded Warriors, and sports organizations such as Little League Baseball and Loudoun Soccer.
So, when you think of data centers, think beyond the building. Think instead of the committed and fascinating people who work there, and the incredible impact that they have on our community.
All week long, member organizations of the Data Center Coalition are providing lunch from local restaurants to the volunteers and workers at the Dulles Town Center vaccination center.— Loudoun Biz (@LoudounBiz) March 22, 2021
🍔🦞 Thanks to @CloudHQ_LLC for sponsoring lunch from @FordsFish today! #IntlDataCenterDay pic.twitter.com/N9I410D1Uy
Meet the People of Data Center Alley
More than 3,000 people are directly employed by Loudoun's data center industry. More than 10,000 people work with Loudoun's data center industry, and tens of thousands more are supported by the economic impact they create. These are their stories:
Data Center Alley operators have been fast to react to sustainability concerns, becoming outspoken in the battle to fight climate change. Corporate leaders such as Microsoft, Facebook and Salesforce, are establishing sustainability strategies to support the planet.
Environmentalists are noticing. Green Peace gave Apple, Facebook and Google an “A” on their clean company scoreboard and Salesforce, Microsoft and Equinix have been given high grades in categories such as energy transparency, renewable energy commitment, energy efficiency and advocacy. Analysts have reported that there has been a 70% decline in pollution over the U.S., northern China and Western Europe as compared to the same time frame in 2019. However, for the data center industry, which accounts for about 3% of global power consumption, sustainability has become even more important.
Here are a few of the ways that the data center industry is working toward their sustainability goals:
- Investing in green energy: Utilizing green energy sources, such as wind and solar power, is a primary way for a data center to reduce its carbon footprint. The industry is working together with Dominion Energy in delivering an unprecedented amount of renewable energy, including a major solar array planned for Loudoun County.
- Energy-efficient buildings: Many Loudoun data centers are utilizing energy-efficient building design standards, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
- Energy storage: Utility-level energy storage is coming, with several operators already announcing projects to use lithium-ion batteries for their backup power. Full adoption of this
technology could lead to the eventual elimination of diesel backup generators.
- Minimizing water usage: Traditionally, data centers have used water to cool their computer equipment. In addition to
utilizing Loudoun Water’s reclaimed water lines, data centers are exploring new ways of cooling, including air cooling,
recycled water loops and submersive cooling technology.
- E-waste management programs: Nearly all operators have implemented electronic and electrical equipment recycling programs.
- Ongoing investment in new technologies: Data center operators continue to innovate and look for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint, including waste heat recycling, on-site energy generation and other initiatives that can help the industry better integrate with their communities.
Seeing Into the Future of Data Center Alley
The Internet and the data center industry have allowed for continuity for most people during COVID-19, but that minority of people who do not have the means or the infrastructure to fully take advantage of the digital economy are at risk of being left behind. It is time to think of digital infrastructure as critical infrastructure.
As work has evolved, as education has become virtual, and as shopping has gone from bricks to clicks, it now seems that if you’re participating in society—professionally, educationally, and culturally—then an email address is almost as important as our physical address.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 53% of Americans say the Internet has been essential during the COVID-19 outbreak. The same study shows that most Americans view the impact of the Internet positively, and almost 90% say it has been essential or important during the pandemic.
In support of broadband for all, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is committed to accelerating the timeline for universal broadband in rural Loudoun. Earlier in 2021, the Board dedicated nearly $200,000 for a telecommunications contract search to connect all government buildings in Western Loudoun. That project will give Loudoun a framework of existing fiber, which can be tapped into for residential. hard-wired broadband.
To have an economic recovery that is real, and full and sustainable, we must find a way to ensure that everyone can participate. Never has the internet and our digital infrastructure been more important to our existence, and that is anchored right here, in Data Center Alley. The time is now, to ensure that everyone has a chance to be part of this recovery, and in many ways, that will start online.