Editorial – Suffolk should go all out for data center

Published 6:40 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s announcement Friday that Amazon Web Services will invest $35 billion to build multiple “data centers” in Virginia by 2040 got our minds racing with possibilities.

Suffolk, which is now home to one of the e-commerce behemoth’s largest distribution centers, should pursue one of the new data centers with vigor.

Aside from the economic impact of new jobs and much-needed tax revenue for city government, landing one of the Amazon facilities will demonstrate to Suffolk citizens that elected and appointed leadership has a vision beyond warehouses.

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Such vision has been lacking amid a flurry of announcements of distribution centers coming to town and adding more truck traffic to Suffolk’s clogged road infrastructure. The City Council’s blessing last year of a massive warehousing campus in the core of the city off U.S. Routes 460 and 58 left Suffolkians in a collective funk about the coming upheaval of their quality of life.

To be clear, data centers alone aren’t the answer economically. Like warehouses, they don’t employ huge numbers of people and they aren’t the most pleasant structures aesthetically. But they are light burdens on infrastructure, especially roads.

Youngkin said that “numerous localities” in the commonwealth are under consideration by Amazon, which will create a combined 1,000 new jobs. We’re crossing our fingers — and toes too — that Suffolk is one.

Communities under consideration “offer robust utility infrastructure, lower costs, great livability and highly educated workforces and will benefit from the associated economic development and increased tax base, assisting the schools and providing services to the community,” Youngkin said.

Our city certainly fits the bill.

Landing an Amazon data center could also help leverage critical funding for highway improvements to accommodate the coming surge in truck traffic.

Pending approval by the General Assembly, the Mega Data Center Incentive Program would make Amazon eligible to receive a grant of up to $140 million for site and infrastructure improvements, workforce development and other project-related costs where it builds data centers.

Let’s make it happen, Suffolk.