The growth of the data center community has increased to bring thousands of jobs and tax revenue to Loudoun County, and now plans are being made to rebrand the data center corridor.
In the coming year, Loudoun County’s Department of Economic Development will conduct a branding review of the data center cluster in Loudoun and explore potential branding and signage campaigns as directed by the county’s Board of Supervisors on Dec. 17.
Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R), who is wrapping up his term this month, requested county staff report back its findings at a future board meeting. The motion was approved with an 8-0-1 vote. Catoctin Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) was absent for the vote earlier this month.
“There's nothing to inform you that most of the world's internet is running through Ashburn. There is nothing that informs you that this is the home of the ‘cloud,’ and so I think it's important that we do some sort of signage that says, ‘Hey you're in the home of the Internet,’ and I would like us come up with a term that is fitting for the area,” Meyer said.
Meyer has previously expressed he's not fond of the unofficial moniker "data center alley."
Included in the Board of Supervisors' direction is for county staff to consider a roadside sign or monument to support the branding efforts. Areas for signage could include major thoroughfares such as Route 28, Route 7, Waxpool Road and Loudoun County Parkway.
The first set of data centers started in the area of Waxpool Road and Loudoun County Parkway in Ashburn in the 1990s, according to county staff.
There are currently more than 70 data centers in Loudoun.
In recent years county leaders and industry professionals have worked to improve the often off-putting appearance of data centers.
“I think that there's certainly some good things that can come from acknowledging what we've succeeded in attracting to the corridor,” Loudoun Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer said. “We don't know exactly what that looks like at this point, but I look forward to spending some time in the new year trying to figure out exactly the best way to do that.”
Data Center Coalition President Josh Levi added, “Loudoun County has the largest data center market in the world. Building visibility around the importance of the industry and all of the economic and community benefits that follow certainly makes sense. The county has a world-class economic development team, and we look forward to reviewing their recommendations and providing feedback.”
Approximately $320 million in direct tax revenue has come from the data center industry in the current fiscal year, according to county staff. Recent estimates state that more than 13,000 jobs are currently associated with the Loudoun data center cluster.
While promoting data centers is important, Loudoun Technology Coalition Chairman Marty Shoup said, Shoup believes this is an important moment to promote the county’s entire business industry.
“I don’t think Loudoun County has done a great job of promoting itself as being a destination for high-tech companies,” Shoup said. " ... It’s worthwhile examining the possible benefits of a ‘Data Center Alley' branding initiative, but we need to be careful of how we promote ourselves to be more inclusive of different types of technology firms, not just data centers.”