The Loudoun County Department of Economic Development saw its best year ever in fiscal year 2016, reporting $2.3 billion in investment—the most of any county in Virginia, and double the previous year’s total, which was a record high at that time.
The largest projects of the year were data centers under development by CyrusOne, Equinix and Digital Realty. Other major construction projects during 2016 included the $275 million expansion of Inova Loudoun Hospital in Lansdowne, a major addition to the Ashby Ponds retirement community, and work on the school district’s Academies of Loudoun campus south of Leesburg.
In the commercial sector, flex-industrial projects set the pace, with more than 1.4 million square feet of new construction permitted during the first 11 months of the year. Office, industrial and retail construction slowed compared with 2015. Only 62,000 square feet of new retail construction was permitted, down from 307,000 square feet during the same period last year.
The county’s other major economic indicators all showed an improving trend. Commercial vacancy rates were down in every category, with office falling from 14.4 percent to 12.4 percent and the retail vacancy rate down to 3.8 percent, compared to 4.2 last year. Hotel revenues are up almost 9 percent, to $142.5 million during the first 11 months of the year. Retail sales were up 7 percent, to $5.34 billion. Traffic at Dulles Airport—both passenger and cargo—increased over 2015 totals. The county’s unemployment held steady at 3.4 percent.
The Department of Economic Development has been promoting the county with a Loudoun Possible-themed campaign aimed at attracting a diverse range of business prospects. In addition to increasing its international marketing reach, the department is gearing up to leverage the opportunities that will follow Metro’s Silver Line extension to Ashburn. The agency even moved its offices at Loudoun Station, along the rail line, to better show off the kind of mixed-use development near Metro stations the county sees for its future.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to maximize our rail stations, so that has been an important part of our strategy and will probably be our number one priority going forward.” DED Director Buddy Rizer said during a review of FY 2016 achievements. “And, listen, we’re like any good business. We are constantly evaluating and reassessing our strategy and adjusting as necessary.”