Henrico fended off competition in bid for Facebook data center

Terry McAuliffe (center) is joined by Facebook’s director of data center strategy Rachel Peterson (left) and head of U.S. infrastructure Reginald B. McKnight (right). (J. Elias O’Neal)

A deal that took state and local economic leaders three years to grow has finally bore fruit.

Flanked by state and regional leaders in the Jefferson Room at the State Capitol, Gov. Terry McAuliffe formally announced at press conference Thursday that Facebook would invest $1 billion to build a 970,000-square-foot data center in the White Oak Technology Park in eastern Henrico County.

The facility, which would be Facebook’s eighth U.S. data center, is set to be operational around 2019, said Director of Data Center Strategy Rachel Peterson, ultimately creating 100 full-time jobs.

It would be the first of what’s expected to be a multi-phase development at 5900 Elko Road that would span more than 328 of the tech park’s 1,500 acres.

The first phase will consist of an H-shaped complex of two single-story, connected buildings. Documents on file with the county show three future buildings totaling 1.5 million additional square feet. The future phases were not discussed at the press conference.

While Virginia appeared to be the primary state for Facebook’s data center, Henrico County edged out a number of localities for the project, including the Northern Virginia counties of Loudoun and Prince William, which have some to the highest concentrations of data centers in North America.

“The important thing is that they were looking at a number of places in Virginia,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “This is a big win for the state.”

No general contractor has been selected to oversee the mammoth development. Delaware-based Scout Development LLC is the developer and Manassas-based Christopher Consultants is the engineer.

State and county leaders emphasized that thousands of jobs would be created during its two-year construction. A handful of area staffing agencies are out seeking workers for the project, including Richmond-based Aerotek, with some offering incentives such as covered relocation expenses to on-the-spot hiring to kick off an ambitious construction timeline.

“They want to move quickly,” Haymore said.

white oak tech park

Facebook will build the data centers in Sandston’s White Oak Technology Park. (J. Elias O’Neal)

Upon its completion, Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said the Facebook facility could be one of the county’s largest taxpayers, although he could not disclose the direct economic impact the facility would have on the county.

“That’s something we’ll have a better idea about when the project is completed and we can assess the property,” Vithoulkas said.

Facebook also would become the county’s largest water user, Vithoulkas said, consuming close to 3.5 million gallons a day.

Henrico County and the state’s primary economic development agency, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, appeared to have pulled out the red carpet to land the Facebook data center.

In April, the county Board of Supervisors approved slashing property taxes for data centers by nearly 90 percent – from $3.50 per $100 of assessed value to $0.40 per $100 – a measure county leaders hope will help land more large-scale data centers.

Vithoulkas said the county gave Facebook an $850,000 sewer connection credit on a total fee that would have cost the social media giant more than $2 million.

With the help of the region’s state legislative delegation, Facebook and Dominion Energy Virginia created a renewable energy tariff valued at $250 million, McAuliffe said.

Much of the tariff’s funds will be put toward the construction of solar facilities to make the data center powered by 100 percent renewable energy, Peterson said. She added the facility will be designed to use outside air to cool computers inside.

Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson nodded to the county’s continued investment in infrastructure at White Oak Technology Park, which offers high-speed fiber optic cable from multiple providers, high-capacity electric power designed for large-volume loads and water service with a capacity of 10 million gallons per day.

“When Henrico invested over $40 million in infrastructure improvements to make White Oak the unique park it is today, we believed it would yield these kinds of announcements,” Nelson said.

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3 Comments on "Henrico fended off competition in bid for Facebook data center"

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Bruce Milam
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Facebooks presence might lure a number of other data center companies to White Oak. It could be the start of something much bigger than we see currently. The prospect of winning the huge Amazon Center looms on the horizon and I suspect both White Oak and the new 1000 acre site in Chesterfield are on their radar. Things are happening in RVA!

Mark Resnick
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Can someone please explain to me what 3.5 million gallons a day is used for and why they aren’t more “green” with their water use? Can’t they use water towers or other to cool equipment and recycle much of that water use? Pardon me as I just don’t understand.

Ed Christina
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Let’s make sure the tax dollars go to ALL the schools in the county, not just the ones the developers want to use as bait for high end renters and owners!

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