Virginia wins another ‘Best Business Climate’ award; data center sector grows in Fairfax County, NOVA

Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) President and CEO Jason El Koubi accepted the 2021 State of the Year-Best Overall Business Climate Award this month from Business Facilities magazine.

“We are thrilled to be the winner of this prestigious award,” El Koubi said. “We think we deserve it based on our business-friendly environment, top transportation system and being a state that places a tremendous emphasis on recruiting and developing the top talent that encourages companies to come here. Our goal now is to build on this, by accelerating and solidifying our economic strengths in the year ahead.”

The national publication for corporate site selectors and economic development professionals said Virginia earned the honor because of the steps many economic development councils in the commonwealth, both local and statewide, are taking to make the state more attractive.

It cited the Commonwealth’s workforce of 4.1 million people as well as successful workforce programs, including the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a collaboration between the Virginia Community College System and the VEDP that provides on-site work training, and Fast Forward Virginia, a Virginia Community College System program that provides industry credentials after a training program that typically takes between six and 12 weeks. And of course, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors funds the Work in Northern Virginia talent initiative that highlights our region as a great place to live, work, play and learn. Business Facilities also awarded the best state honor for 2018.

Business Facilities Editorial Director Seth Mendelson said Virginia cited assets from infrastructure to workforce development programs in presenting the award.

“The proof is in the pudding and Virginia has a long list of companies that are choosing to make the commonwealth home because of what is offered to them from the very start,” Mendelson said. “Virginia is investing in the future through workforce development programs, state-of-the-art infrastructure and an advanced educational system from kindergarten right through college and even beyond.”

Click here to read the full story on Virginia’s 2021 State of the Year—Best Business Climate Award.

The award marked the second national honor for Virginia as a top state for business in 2021. CNBC named the Commonwealth the No. 1 state for business in July for the second time in a row and five times in all.

It was a big day for El Koubi. The same day of the award presentation, El Koubi was named permanent president and CEO of VEDP in an unanimous vote by the partnership’s board of directors. He had been the acting president and CEO for the last three months and, prior to that served as executive vice president of since 2017.

“It is fitting that Jason was tapped to lead the Virginia Economic Development Partnership on the same day the state was again designated as having the best business climate in the nation, because he has been instrumental in the state developing the assets that are key to these rankings,” said Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Victor Hoskins. “I congratulate Jason and look forward to working alongside the VEDP to build the commonwealth’s exceptional business climate even further.”

In five years as VEDP executive vice president, Koubi helped to lead the development and implementation of an ambitious Strategic Plan for Economic Development of the Commonwealth, spearheading the development and initial implementation of the first-ever International Trade Strategic Plan for Virginia, leading the creation of VEDP’s new Division of Real Estate Solutions, and serving on the management team for Amazon HQ2 and other major business development projects over the last several years, according to the VEDP.

“Economic development is critical to Virginia’s economy, job growth, and competitiveness,” said Gov. Glenn Youngkin. “New developments and opportunities are key to improving the lives of all Virginians. I’ve enjoyed working with Jason and have been very impressed by him. I am pleased that he will serve as the president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and I look forward to his continued work to bring companies and jobs to Virginia.”

El Koubi came to Virginia from economic development roles in Louisiana.

“Over the past five years, I have developed a deep fondness for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and profound respect for the many individuals and organizations committed to its continued prosperity and vibrancy,” he said. “I am excited to work with Governor Youngkin’s administration, the General Assembly, Virginia’s strong network of regional and local economic developers, and many other valued partners to advance the goals established in our ambitious Strategic Plan for Economic Development of the Commonwealth. I am inspired about the possibilities ahead of us and look forward to this next chapter for VEDP and our team.”

Business Facilities Editorial Director Seth Mendelson (left) presents Virginia’s 2021 State of the Year—Best Overall Business Climate Award to VEDP President and CEO Jason El Koubi. (Photo credit: Business Facilities.)

The VEDP was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1995 to encourage, stimulate, and support the development and expansion of the economy of the Commonwealth. To accomplish its objectives of promoting economic expansion within the Commonwealth, the Partnership focuses its efforts on business recruitment, expansion, and international trade development.

Data center sector growing in Fairfax County, NOVA

Data center investment in Fairfax County has increased significantly in the past two years, according to the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) newly released annual report: “The Impact of Data Centers on the State and Local Economies of Virginia.”

Data centers in Fairfax County currently occupy 2.4 million square feet in 28 facilities. As of February 2022, the pipeline of new data center development includes 1.9 million square feet, with 375,000 square feet already under construction. Fairfax County has development opportunities available in both greenfield areas near Dulles International Airport and infill locations in Tysons.

Data centers provide a high benefit to cost ratio in terms of the tax revenue they generate relative to the government services that they and their employees require. Loudoun and Prince William counties are presently home to the most significant concentrations of data centers in Virginia, according to the report. Both jurisdictions, along with Fairfax County, are among the 10 localities within the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance, which promotes the Northern Virginia region together as an outstanding location for business investment and expansion.

With the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority as a sponsor, the NVTC report was prepared by Magnum Economics, a firm that specializes in producing objective economic, quantitative, and qualitative analysis in support of strategic decision-making.

Statewide, according to the report, data centers are the major drivers of investment. According to information from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), in 2021, 62 percent ($6.8 billion) of all the new investment announced by VEDP was from new and expanding data centers.

Northern Virginia has the largest data-center market in the United States. As of 2021, the data center inventory in Northern Virginia exceeds that of the next five largest markets combined. The compound annual rate of growth in data centers in Northern Virginia from 2014 to 2021 was 25 percent. In comparison, Dallas-Fort Worth, the next fastest growing area, had compound annual growth rate of 10 percent. From 2018 to 2021, the total data center capacity in Northern Virginia more than doubled.

Between 2001 and 2020, the average private sector employee of a Virginia data center saw their gross income go up 70 percent faster than the average private sector employee in Virginia. The NVTC report estimates that in 2021, data center employed 5,550 Virginians, not counting construction workers building data centers in the state. Approximately 88 percent (4,920) were working in Northern Virginia.

The accumulated capital investment in data centers across the state amounts to $126 billion in 2021 dollars. Virginia data centers spent $5.4 billion in 2021 for operational expenses, the majority of which goes for staffing and power.

In 2021, the data centers in Virginia directly provided about:

  • 5,550 operational jobs and 10,230 construction and manufacturing jobs
  • $1.6 billion in associated employee pay and benefits
  • $7.5 billion in economic output

Taking into account the economic ripple effects generated by that direct impact, the total impact on Virginia from data centers in 2021 was approximately:

  • 45,460 supported jobs
  • $3.6 billion in associated employee pay and benefits
  • $15.3 billion in economic output

For every job inside a Virginia data center, there are 4.1 additional jobs that are supported in the rest of the Virginia economy, the report notes.

The NVTC report estimates that in 2021, data centers were directly and indirectly responsible for generating $174 million in state revenue and $1 billion local tax revenue in Virginia.

Click here to download the NVTC report.

Northern Virginia is the largest of 18 largest data center markets in the United States identified by CBRE and JLL. The area of each circle indicates the relative amount of power capacity in each market. (Map courtesy of Northern Virginia Technology Council)