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COMMENT: Let's leverage, welcome the rise of data centers

Last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced that Amazon Web Services plans to invest $35 billion dollars in Virginia by 2040. This investment, coupled with the 2018 announcement of Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) in Arlington, will greatly expand the company’s footprint in Virginia, bringing new jobs and much-needed property tax revenue.

AWS is the largest cloud-computing service in the world, accounting for as much as 34% of the ever-expanding global market. Amazon’s Virginia investment is proof that the demand for cloud computing is not a short-term fad, but a long-term necessity.

But what is “the cloud?”

While it may sound ethereal or mythical, the cloud is really nothing more than a giant warehouse full of computer servers sitting on a large parcel of land. This heavily secured campus that houses the servers is called a data center.

Data centers, however, have become the modern necessity some love to hate. Every time we log into our phone or computer to retrieve a document or a family photo, send an email or read the news from “the cloud,” we use a data center somewhere. Data centers offer cost savings, convenience and speedy access to the data we have come to rely upon.

As our demand for storage, reliability and speed grows, so does the need to increase capacity by building regional data centers. Gov. Youngkin recognized this need and worked to incentivize companies to build data centers here in the commonwealth.

Recently, we have seen data center proposals in Culpeper and Fauquier counties. Both proposals were met with protests and opposition typical of large-scale development projects. As with most opposition, some concerns are valid, while others are not. All development projects, residential or commercial, come with tradeoffs and concerns. Noise, traffic and demands on already-strained county services are the typical and valid concerns that need to be addressed for any proposed project.

On most accounts, data centers have less impact than the thousands of houses that would undoubtedly be built in their place. Data centers generate little additional traffic, typically use recycled water and sustainable energy sources whenever possible. Most importantly, they will not strain an already-overburdened school system or fill our roads with more cars. What they offer that no other industry, residential or commercial, does is massive amounts of property tax revenue.


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