Digital Evolution: How the IT Infrastructure Industry is Reshaping and Revitalizing Local Economies



Digital transformation is a common phrase when referring to the changes that businesses are making in the new data-driven world. Most commonly when we think of digital transformation, we think of cloud, artificial intelligence, new applications, or new IT frameworks that help businesses succeed. However, as the online world expands, we’re finding that digital transformation’s scope goes beyond the walls of the individual organizations. When we look at regional shifts in response to the ever-growing presence of technology, we can see that entire regional economies are undergoing fundamental shifts as well.

In many coal-producing regions, for instance, a long history of resource development has been at the core of local employment and economic stability. Now, however, as we develop beyond the use of coal in many use cases, these coal-dependent economies are in some instances suffering from lack of job opportunities, declining populations and economic downturns. At the same time, we’re seeing the world trend toward becoming increasingly digitized. This is a result of the expansion of the internet, the availability of more online tools and capabilities and the growing dependence on connectivity (all of which have been accelerated by the pandemic). These factors show us that modernizing local economies and ensuring access to critical IT is key for thriving in the era of the digital economy.

Wise, Virginia, in particular stands as a prime example of this transformation. What was once an area negatively impacted by the downturn of the coal industry is now benefiting from economic diversification and modernization efforts. The result is a burgeoning market and IT infrastructure destination that is enabling locals to thrive as part of a tech-driven revival.

Among employment initiatives, public health programs and more, Wise, Virginia is showcasing its resilience by repurposing land previously used for coal production, adding new and impressive value with digital infrastructure. The PBS VMP documentary “Creating Common Wealth: Economic Development, expands upon this transformation, even featuring DP Facilities’ Wise, VA, Mineral Gap data center as evidence of successful efforts to adapt existing resources to support local reinvigoration.

Built on land once used for coal mining, this 45MW data center campus offers up to 3MW of renewable energy from the adjacent solar farm being developed (scheduled for completion in Q4 2020), brings new job opportunities for locals looking to transition out of the coal industry, and helps establish Wise County as a destination of choice for businesses. Access to this critical infrastructure doesn’t just create a one-time investment and a few jobs, it has the potential to spur continued economic growth by drawing more businesses to the area with a new ability to support evolving IT requirements throughout the region. Furthermore, it helps put Wise County ahead of the sustainability curve as the globe looks for ways to build a greener future.

Digital revitalization like this isn’t about turning a blind eye to the past or separating the communities in these areas from their legacy — it’s about recognizing the rich past that exists here and working collaboratively to help them flourish in a new day and age. Wise County and the initiatives taking place there can serve as an example for other regions experiencing similar challenges, offering a use case that will in turn create a foundation for widespread success and growth.