RagingWire opens data center in Ashburn

August 5, 2012

Sacramento-based RagingWire has officially opened its Ashburn data center, making it the latest company to plant a stake in what’s known as “data center alley” in Loudoun County.

Despite signs of weakness in other parts of the local community’s federal technology businesses — mostly spurred by uncertainty in government spending — the data center business has showed little sign of slowing.

RagingWire pulled out all the stops to celebrate its arrival, even hiring an elaborate Cirque du Soleil-inspired performance group and hosting Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to cut the ribbon on its new facility.

The company provided tours of its new center, which departs from the typical muted colors employed at other centers, featuring bold purple and green walls and art created by a company employee. The 150,000-square-foot facility includes office space, conference rooms and lounges.

Loudoun County — home to many of the region’s data centers, most densely congregated along Loudoun County Parkway and Waxpool Road — has touted the strength of this industry. According to Buddy Rizer, assistant director of Loudoun’s economic development office, the county has just shy of 4.7 million square feet in about three dozen data centers.

When projects that are already approved and permitted are complete in about 18 months, the county will have nearly 6 million square feet, he added.

For data center companies, Loudoun makes an attractive choice. George Macricostas, chief executive and vice chairman at RagingWire, said his California company was seeking an area with the technical infrastructure to support its new facility.

“You need to be where the fiber is,” he said. RagingWire’s new data center is anchored by Web hosting company DreamHost, and Macricostas said the company is considering expansion.

Loudoun and Virginia officials are trying to keep the area attractive. While producing relatively few jobs, Rizer said he estimates that every 250,000 square feet of data center space results in about $5.5 million in annual local tax revenue — meaning 6 million square feet would yield about $132 million.

“Virginia has one of the strongest IT economic engines in the state,” said James D. Duffey Jr., the state’s technology secretary.

Seeking to keep data centers a key component of that engine, the state this year adjusted a sales and use tax exemption put in place for qualified data centers in 2009. The exemption applies to certain data center equipment such as servers, routers, generators and chillers.

Under a new change, data centers with multiple tenants can aggregate their investment and job creation numbers to qualify for the exemption, according to the state economic development office.

There are signs that competition elsewhere is growing. In recent months, several companies — including Beltsville-based AiNet and Reston-based ByteGrid — have announced new or expanded data centers in Maryland, while other states have improved their data center incentives. Nebraska, for instance, expanded its tax incentives for large data center projects.

“Every jurisdiction is working very hard to get into the data center business,” Rizer said.

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