Google's Growing Empire: A New Company Town?

The entrance to NASA's Research Park at Ames, California.

“I don’t want to say it’s the new company town,” reflects one real-estate executive of Google’s rapidly expanding domain, “but it’s not far from it.”

In an article penned by reporter Mike Swift, The Silicon Valley Mercury News describes how Google’s real-estate footprint has grown in the past four years to occupy more than 4 million square feet. And coming soon: a new Google corporate campus on Silicon Valley’s NASA base at Ames that will include employee housing. That new facility will add another 1.2 million square feet to the company’s real-estate holdings.

Swift also notes that Google is encouraging the city of Mountain View, California–the location of its much discussed Googleplex–to transform the area around its headquarters, adding more housing and retail establishments.

Just how many employees does Google foresee living and working at the NASA Ames Research Center? The company won’t say–nor will it even disclose the number of workers currently in Mountain View, although  Swift estimates that there are 17,000.  The complex at Ames is still in the planning stages, with construction scheduled to begin in 2013. Housing there could take up 10% of the new campus’s space, meaning perhaps 60 2,000-sq.-ft. dwellings.

Some people may be reluctant to use the term “company town,” with its negative connotations. But there is no other term–and history has shown that company towns need not be slums or Orwellian dystopias. In Mountain View, the company says it wants a “nurturing and regenerative” environment, complete with “vibrant community and work/life balance.”  And maybe it has similar goals for the Ames campus.

In planning Hershey, Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey announced that he intended to build a community where there would be “no poverty, no nuisances, no evil.” Google, too, is down on evil–“Don’t be evil,” its informal motto instructs. So maybe, like Hershey, the Ames facility will be a home, sweet home. Here’s hoping.

One Reply to “Google's Growing Empire: A New Company Town?”

  1. Dear Hardy Green,

    I’m a danish journalist writing about “company towns” in Denmark, which of we have a few of the ‘utopian’ nature. Towns where one single company employ the majority of the inhabitants and provide them with great facilities and sponsor a lot of local acitivites.

    I’ve been reading your articles on the American “company towns” with great interest, and I was wondering if you would mind doing a brief telephone interview on the topic – about the nature of these towns, and what might be the incentive for these companies to do what today can be seen as an anacronism.

    I hope to hear from you, my email is:

    Best regards,
    Frederik Danvig

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