Loudoun becoming The King of Data (Centers)

August 30, 2011

Racks of servers at the Latisys data cener in Ashburn. Your old AOL account is in here somewhere. (Jeffrey MacMillan for The Washington Post)

Loudoun has 40 of these huge data centers, many in the Ashburn area, with about 4 million square feet of space, and the county thinks it'll have 6.5 million square feet 10 years from now. It’s attractive to business since Virginia provides tax breaks and incentives, and Loudoun’s got the land. One of the few drawbacks is that the centers don’t need that many employees — they’re mostly just gigantic computers, streaming and storing your priceless photos of your sister’s wedding or the video of that time your kid made that cute face thing.

Loudoun had its first data surge in the late 1990s, of course, when a little startup called America Online sorta blew up. AOL’s fade mirrored a local slowdown in the Dulles Corridor, but this resurgence that started in 2006 could ensure The Corridor’s relevance for a long time.

Why do we care what’s in these huge computer buildings? Because they should, theoretically, increase the commercial tax base, and so (theoretically) reduce the burden on us, the individual taxpayers. But a drawback of Virginia’s tax breaks and incentives is it can negate the tax revenue gains of newly arrived businesses for years, and have no impact on individual taxpayers. In those cases, the only ones who benefit from the new business are its owners.

The details of Loudoun’s bid to become The King of Data are in Censer’s well-reported piece here.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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