As resistance to new data center projects mounts across Northern Virginia it is important to keep in mind the human impact of these behemoth developments and how personal stories can shift the tide.
Beyond the arguments for tax revenue and the promises of proffers, data center developers should consider telling the stories of the workers that build their campuses. A 7.5M sq ft facility could mean 20,000 jobs for electricians over 15 years. That means providing solid middle-class jobs to a huge number of workers in the locality approving the project. It also means creating pathways for students to six figure salaries without having to attend college. Each large project approved is a substantial part of a worker’s career.
It's not enough to just tell Supervisors or Planning Commissioners about the jobs workers gain from data center developments, you must show them. Practically this means having electrical workers testify, submit letters, talk to the press, and call their representatives in support of projects. Personalizing the work and the impact of having these jobs closer to home.
All this is to say data centers create opportunity not just in physical and financial benefits to a locality but by creating careers and uplifting generations of workers. We have told this story successfully across our market and continue to win approvals and the jobs that come with them for our members.
Joe Dabbs is business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26. The IBEW Local 26 represents 12,000 union electricians in DC, MD, and VA, many of whom build data centers.