Over the past several years, data centers have exploded in Northern Virginia, and business leaders say Prince William County should support the industry’s continued growth.
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce held a virtual panel discussion on Feb. 26 on the importance of data centers to the local economy.
Josh Levi, president of the Data Center Coalition, said Loudoun County leads Northern Virginia localities with more than 100 data center projects representing more than $14.1 billion in capital investment since 2015. Prince William County is second in the region with more than 50 projects representing $7.5 billion in capital investment.
Levi said data centers are an important driver for local tax revenue. He said they also add jobs, but the job growth isn’t enough to overburden local services.
“The county’s getting the jobs and the benefits of those revenues without the additional burden of vehicles or additional burdens to schools,” said Theresa Pattara, chief compliance officer with Iron Mountain Data Centers.
Based on 2018 data, Levi said the industry led to 1,786 full-time jobs and $292 million in economic output in the county. The average salary of those jobs was more than $127,000.
Related construction provided $615 million in investment and 1,222 jobs.
Tom Shumaker, executive vice president of Holder Construction Co., said a project could have 500 to 800 employees on site and four times as many involved off-site. He said data centers are getting larger, which will lead to more jobs.
Levi said the industry invested $2.4 billion in the county in 2020, which represented 94% of all capital investment in the county at the time. The businesses led to $64 million in tax revenue in 2020.
Tag Greason, chief hyperscale officer for QTS, said the company has data centers in three localities in Virginia, including Prince William. He said the county was chosen because it has a stable business environment, available land and a skilled workforce.
Donna Oldham, manager of community engagement for Amazon Web Services, said the companies are also invested in their communities, highlighting Amazon’s support for educational programs.
Levi said data centers are also likely to include a renewable energy component because energy is a huge part of their expenses. Oldham said the energy focus reiterates a company’s support for the community.
“It's good for our business and our community,” she said.
Greason said the county’s continued support for data centers will ensure their long-term investment.
“When you are going into a county, you will ultimately invest in that county,” he said. “What I love about Prince William is the stability and knowing I can go into the county and invest there and be there for a decade. … I think that’s the guiding principle for the future of data centers.”