Virginia’s Louisa County Board of Supervisors announced today that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is planning an $11 billion investment by 2040 to establish two data center campuses in Louisa’s Technology Overlay District (TOD).
The announcement of the new data center campuses within the Louisa TOD comes as part of AWS's planned investment of $35 billion across the state, which was announced by Governor Glenn Youngkin in January.
It was true then and it's true now: Virginia intends to remain the world's biggest data center market. That was the clear message from Youngkin in announcing the hyperscaler’s initial $35 billion investment in new data center campuses in the state, supported by new tax incentives and grants.
The World's Most Important Cloud Computing Market
In his January reporting, of the overall AWS investment, DCF's Rich Miller noted, "The deal solidifies Virginia's status as the world's most important cloud computing market, and is likely to have a profound impact on the state's infrastructure and economy. State legislators are developing a new Mega Data Center Incentive Program, which includes up to a 15-year extension of existing sales and use tax exemptions for data center companies on qualifying equipment and software."
The new Mega Data Center Incentive program is being developed by The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), in collaboration with the state General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Project Approval Commission. The assembly was to approve the new incentives, along with a proposed MEI custom performance grant for Amazon of up to $140 million for site and infrastructure improvements, workforce development, and other project-related costs.
The huge investment supports the AWS US-East Northern Virginia cloud region, which after years of epic expansion stands at about 50 data centers and is rapidly growing and is the largest single concentration of corporate data centers on earth, positioned near a strategic Internet intersection in Ashburn, which serves as a global crossroads for data traffic, as noted by Miller. DCF maintains that as the cloud grows, the ability to add servers near Ashburn has become the table stakes for companies with ambitions in cloud computing.
A growing and diversified economy
Louisa County is located in the Central Piedmont region of Virginia near the geographic center of the state, encompassing a land area of 514 square miles, with a growing and diversified economy comprised of manufacturing, services, commercial and agricultural sectors.
Located 15 miles west of Greater Richmond, the state capitol, and 15 miles east of Greater Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, the county is situated between the cities of Richmond, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. Lake Anna lies along its northeastern border.
Located just 90 miles south of Washington, DC and 140 miles northwest of the port city of Norfolk, Louisa County’s square mileage comprises a mix of residential, historic farms, open pasture and wooded areas. As noted on the Louisa County website, “Increasingly the business community is finding Louisa to be an attractive central location for manufacturing and commercial investment.”
As a way to gauge the magnitude of the current investment, previous to 2022, AWS had spent $35 billion on its cloud computing infrastructure in Northern Virginia over the entire prior decade, beginning a process that continues now to illustrate the enormous impact data centers can have on regional economies. The data center cluster in Northern Virginia is just one component of Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, which includes seven AWS regions in North America and 25 across the globe.
Of the planned AWS investment in Louisa County, John D. Hewa, President and CEO at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, confirmed, “We will be an active partner in this collaboration to propel our communities forward in the digital era. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative looks forward to welcoming AWS to Louisa County and sustainably providing the reliable energy and fiber communications services they need to power their advanced data center operations in our community.”
Supporting economic growth while maintaining rural character
In today’s announcement, the Louisa County board noted that the TOD plays an important role in supporting both economic growth in the technology sector, while maintaining Louisa’s rural character through buffers, noise limits and other controls.
Duly noted as one of DCF's "Eight Trends That Will Shape the Data Center Industry in 2023" was the specter of an industry confronting its PR problems (and particularly in Virginia), defending against a growing narrative that data centers are bad neighbors and devour vital community resources like water and electricity. In the case of the Louisa County plan, such concerns are being assessed.
“Bringing a leader like AWS to a rurally focused locality requires a careful consideration of industry needs and the community atmosphere that our citizens expect,” said Louisa County Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams. “Louisa’s TOD represents the strictest development controls in the county, and we’re pleased to find a partner that offers such significant benefits while meeting those standards.”
Meanwhile, Louisa County officials said the increased tax base from the planned investment by AWS is expected to support county schools, essential services such as first responders, and infrastructure investments such as parks and roads.
“This type of opportunity to create hundreds of high-quality jobs and significant investment in Louisa is why responsible economic growth is a priority for the county,” said Louisa County Board Chairman Duane Adams. “We’re proud to partner with AWS to expand their operations in a world with a growing demand for cloud computing infrastructure.”
The board previously identified the opportunity to attract technology businesses to the county, and said it developed the TOD with strict standards to meet the sector’s needs, while protecting the beauty of the county’s natural assets.
“Compared to other types of development, data centers create jobs and bring significant revenue growth with less traffic and related community impacts,” said an official statement from the Louisa County board.
“AWS will be a great addition to Louisa and we look forward to what the future holds as a result of this partnership and investment in our community,” said Andy Wade, Louisa County Director of Economic Development. “I’m grateful to the Board for their leadership in the creation of the TOD and to the state for their assistance in this ongoing collaboration.”
Workforce ramifications and plans for development
The new data center campuses will position AWS as one of the largest private-sector employers in Louisa and will create hundreds of new jobs.
“We are proud to reinforce our long-term commitment to the Commonwealth with our plans to invest $11 billion in Louisa County by 2040,” said Roger Wehner, Director of Economic Development, AWS. “Virginia hosted our first data centers when we launched in 2006, and over the last decade AWS invested more than $51.9 billion in the Commonwealth while supporting thousands of jobs. This new investment in Louisa County builds on our rich partnership with the state and we look forward to delivering and supporting programs that will benefit Louisa County residents.”
As noted by the hyperscaler, “These data centers will support computer servers, networking equipment and the AWS technology that helps people connect to friends and family, work remotely, shop online, and stream movies, TV shows, music, and video games.”
“This is a historic moment for the county,” said Louisa County Administrator Christian Goodwin. “AWS’s plans to locate in Louisa represents an amazing opportunity that benefits our citizens and our community as a whole.”
The Lousia County Board of Supervisors said it looks forward to further public input in prioritizing related investments, as economic development projects can result in revenue diversification for localities.
“Any chance to provide better job opportunities for our citizens right here in the county is a valuable one,” said Fitzgerald Barnes, Louisa County Patrick Henry District Supervisor. “Coupled with the revenue support for community enhancements and essential services, this project is a great opportunity for Louisa.”
The board said the project will enable consideration of core service enhancements such as public safety and education, as well as infrastructure improvements such as parks and facilities upgrades.
“We are thrilled to see Amazon Web Services expand into rural Virginia with its planned data center campuses in Louisa County,” concluded Jason El Koubi, President and CEO of the VEDP. “The economic impact of AWS in the Commonwealth is transformational, and these world-class data centers will bring historic capital investment and high-quality, 21st-century jobs.”