AOL to Give Up Data Center

In Prince William County

Employees working at America Online Inc.'s Gainesville Technology Center received an e-mail Friday morning announcing the company's plans to sell the facility.

The 230,000-square-foot network and data center in the western end of Prince William County is staffed by about 100 workers. It houses computer equipment, mostly computer servers that handle Internet services, said Nicholas Graham, a company spokesman.

Graham confirmed that a preliminary sales agreement was reached on Wednesday, but said details, including the name of the buyer and the purchase price, would not be released. He said AOL expects to complete the sale in the fourth quarter.

The center, which opened in 2001, was hailed by county leaders as proof of their ability to attract high-tech companies. Such data centers were considered by local officials and developers to be one of the most beneficial forms of economic development.

But because of advancing technology, AOL no longer needs as much space to store such equipment, Graham said. The type of technology used in the data centers has "gotten more compact, more efficient, and we've been able to economize," even as Internet traffic has increased, Graham said.

Graham said AOL plans to transfer the employees to other AOL sites in Northern Virginia.

County officials said they weren't surprised by the news, nor were they worried about the impact of the sale.

"It's my understanding that a similar-type company is going to purchase it," said Martin J. Briley, executive director of the county's Department of Economic Development. "We feel, in the county, that we're going to come out completely whole on this."

Already, most of AOL's equipment in Prince William County, valued at more than $1 billion, is housed at its Manassas site,

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton (R) said the county might gain jobs and tax revenue when a new company moves in.

"It's a positive development because of who it is that is going to be coming in," Connaughton said, describing the buyer as a company with an "equal national reputation" to that of Dulles-based AOL.