Microsoft Mushrooms in Mecklenburg County

The tech giant is increasing the size of its data center campus in Boydton, Va., with a $251.6 million investment.

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Mecklenburg County, Va.—In what has practically become an annual event, the Commonwealth of Virginia has announced that Microsoft Corp. will increase the size of its data center campus in the city of Boydton in Mecklenburg County, Va. The tech giant will shell out $251.6 million on the project, marking the fifth expansion of the property since Microsoft completed the first structure in 2011.

Governor Elect Terry McAuliffe
Governor Elect Terry McAuliffe

There’s something about Virginia. Microsoft chose the state over North Carolina and Texas when it first went on the hunt for a data center site in 2010, and this time around, the company also looked at other U.S. locations before deciding to increase its home in Mecklenburg County.

“This company’s success continues to be a testament to Southern Virginia’s talented workforce and strong IT infrastructure,” Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia said in a prepared statement. “The Commonwealth is emerging as a leader in the data center industry.”

Mecklenburg County was aided in the courting of Microsoft by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. With the new project, Microsoft will have invested a whopping $1.2 billion in its Mecklenburg digs and added in excess of 250 jobs to the market.

With each expansion at 101 Herbert Drive, local and state officials have rewarded Microsoft for its commitment to Virginia, and the tech firm’s latest endeavor is no exception. The governor’s office signed off on a half-million-dollar grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, giving Mecklenburg County a helping hand with the project. Additionally, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $970,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds. And there’s more. The State enacted its data center sales and use tax exemption in 2009, at a time when only a handful of other states provided similar catnip. However, times have changed and now more states than not offer such incentives, many of them more attractive than those of the Commonwealth, according to the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Although Virginia’s hold on Microsoft continues, nothing is being taken for granted; the state doesn’t intend to rest on its laurels. Per a report released earlier this year by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, “If Virginia is to avoid the fate of Washington State, home of Microsoft, which has seen billions of dollars of data center investment migrate to neighboring Oregon because of the uncertainty generated by its ‘off again on again off again’ approach to data center incentives, it will need to maintain its competitive position in the data center market.”

Microsoft plans to utilize the additional space to accommodate the growing demand for cloud services, a market in which Microsoft is one of two leaders, as the company asserts in its report for the fiscal year ending June 30. The company isn’t talking square footage in terms of the new addition at the Mecklenburg campus, but it’s clear that in the cloud, size does matter.

As noted in Microsoft’s FY report, “The shift to the cloud is driven by three important economies of scale: larger data centers can deploy computational resources at significantly lower cost per unit than smaller ones; larger data centers can coordinate and aggregate diverse customer, geographic, and application demand patterns, improving the utilization of computing, storage, and network resources; and multi-tenancy lowers application maintenance labor costs for large public clouds.”

Per Mecklenburg County records, there are seven buildings accounting for approximately 1.1 million square feet at the Microsoft site. The governor’s announcement did not include details on a groundbreaking or completion date for the latest Microsoft project in Mecklenburg.

Image courtesy of the Commonwealth of Virginia