Loudoun County’s Buddy Rizer: “A Better Standard of Design Could Open Doors to New Areas for Data Centers”

LEESBURG, VA — Fireside Chats are always a highlight of CAPRE’s International Data Center Series Summits, and CAPRE’s Seventh Annual Mid-Atlantic Data Center Summit in Leesburg, VA last week was no exception. Driving the Data Center: Networks, Clouds, and the Data Centers featured the perspective of two highly respected data center leaders, Buddy Rizer, Executive Director of Economic Development for Loudoun County, VA & Daniel Golding, Network and Data Center Infrastructure Leader at Google. While the session intended for Rizer to pose questions to Golding, the latter took the opportunity to turn the tables about halfway through the event.

“Let me ask you a question, Buddy. One of the most interesting things you and I have talked about, and this has not only garnered some local press, but also some recent hand-waving by local politicians, is how data centers look,” began Golding. “One of the things we have heard a lot about from our neighbors is about how these data centers actually look. Some of them are pretty spiffy – they’re architecturally interesting. And some of them, you could say that the architectural scheme is “industrial-case.” So, given that, where are you going in terms of data centers that are as nice to look at as they are technologically advanced?”

“Well first of all I’d like to acknowledge Rich Miller, who published an article yesterday that was the best thing forwarded to me all week, and was about this,” began Rizer. “We’ve had a lot of conversation in Loudoun County recently about design. And it’s been driven by one or two members of our Board of Supervisors. It was a topic during our comprehensive plan and we spent a lot of time and goodwill listening to our peers.”

Rizer then shared a bit about how his career has changed as Loudoun County has become ground zero for data enters. “I’ve found that a lot of my time over the years has gone from being a salesman to being more of a manager,” he shared. “So I’m managing relationships. I don’t really need to sell Ashburn as a location for a data center anymore. One of the things that I’ve spent a lot of time on is trying to manage that relationship between the data centers and the county. Craig [Deering] and Stu [Dyer], from Cyrus One] talked earlier today about things like predictability in the permitting process, time to market, those types of things, and those are heavy lifts for me – because we went from having 5 or 6 fast-track applicants in a year to 20, during the last year. So you get to the point where, if everything is a fast track, then nothing is a fast track. Now we’ve got to continue working on that.”

“By and large we have a very welcoming community. If the trade-off is that our citizens have asked our elected officials, who have then asked the industry, to take a little bit more consideration into their design, I don’t know that that’s necessarily something we should setting our hair on fire about,” urged Rizer. “I think it’s a little bit short-sighted on behalf of the industry when they want to push back on design. We know in Loudoun County that there’s not much greenfield left. If you look at our recent comprehensive study, you’ll see that a lot of that opportunity that is left is in redevelopment – and a lot of those areas are on roads, areas of high traffic.”

Next, Rizer shared a bit more about the upside. “Let me tell you something — having a better standard of design is going to open up the flood gates for data centers to go into areas where they have not been before,” he advised.
“It’s going to give you the opportunity that so many of you have been asking us for. So it’s going to be a trade-off, but it will be an opportunity cost that I think we, as an industry, have to understand as being there. It’s not going to hurt us…when we look at the bigger picture, let’s remember that we’ve done everything we can and we’ve managed it in a very powerful way, but because we’ve done it in the way we did it, and the community has been very responsive, there is an opportunity that was not there before.”

For more coverage of this Q&A with Rizer and Golding, check out previous CAPRE Insider Reports:

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