Google pulling out of Tempe - East Valley Tribune: News

Google pulling out of Tempe

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Posted: Friday, September 19, 2008 10:49 am | Updated: 9:39 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

After two years, Google announced Friday that it will close its engineering center in Tempe on Nov. 21.

The company’s projects in Arizona have become “highly fragmented,” said Alan Eustace, senior vice president, and the search-engine power decided it would make more sense to incorporate the work into teams elsewhere at Google.

Google research center, Southern Ave., Apache Blvd., Broadway Rd., University Dr., McClintock Dr., Rural Rd., Mill Ave., Tempe Town Lake, Loop 202, Tempe, Sun Devil Stadium, ASU, Map by Scott Kirchhofer/EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE

He said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is working with the 50 Tempe employees to move them to other locations within the company.

“We’ve spent a lot of time structuring our engineering operations to make the most of the exceptional talent that’s available across America - developing local centers that give engineers the autonomy and opportunity to be truly innovative,” Eustace said in a written statement. “These principles have served us well as we’ve grown, so when the model fails, it’s doubly disappointing.”

Company spokeswoman Sunny Gettinger denied that Google is pulling out because the firm couldn’t find the engineering talent it needs in Arizona. “We loved the employees we found in Arizona and hope that most will join us in other locations,” she said. “The real reason is that they serviced primarily our internal information systems . . . and it’s hard to do that in a distributed manner. We have decided to consolidate that to places like Mountain View and New York where there are larger offices.”

She said Google has no other major Arizona operations, but the company will continue to work with Arizona State University on several projects. They include advanced e-mail services for ASU students and “cloud computing,” an initiative to plug universities around the world into a vast “cloud” of hundreds of thousands of computers for scientific research and other purposes.

“Google values the strong strategic relationship it has established with (ASU),” Gettinger said.

ASU officials declined to comment except to confirm that Google’s initiatives with ASU will continue.

The Silicon Valley-based company opened the engineering center at an ASU-owned building at 1551 S. Rural Road in 2006 amid much fanfare, including a press conference at Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office. University and economic development officials hailed the opening as evidence of the Valley’s competitiveness in attracting cutting-edge technology firms.

The initial long-term plan was for the company to grow its operation in the Valley and eventually find a permanent location that would provide more room. But the company did not grow here as expected.

Gov. Napolitano was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment, but her spokeswoman, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, said Google has been cutting back elsewhere too.

“As a matter of fact, . . . the Dallas and Denver offices were closed earlier this year,” L’Ecuyer said.

She said the company’s departure represents more of a psychological blow than a real economic loss because of the small number of employees involved.

“From what I can put together, it looks like Google is reallocating resources, which is not an uncommon move for companies right now in this economy. But is it a death blow for Arizona? Not by any stretch.”

L’Ecuyer pointed to strong local industries like the biotech, optics, and military and aerospace industries.

“Google’s a big name, and it certainly drew a lot of attention when they came here,” she said. “Anytime you lose an office of a company with a name like Google, people certainly are going to take note of that. But there’s an awful lot (of) good . . . that’s going on in Arizona.”

Steve Zylstra, president of the Arizona Technology Council, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the announcement because Google officials had become less involved with the council and the community in recent months.

“I didn’t know about the shutting down of the office, but I suspected something was going on,” he said. “They were less active in the community than we had seen before.”

Zylstra said the closing probably has more to do with an internal reorganization of Google than any difficulties the company had doing business in Arizona.

“Earlier on they had expressed concerns . . . they were having difficulty attracting the software developers they were looking for,” he said. “But more recently, perhaps because of internal things in Google or general economic conditions, they quit hiring.”

Zylstra doesn’t believe the loss will harm efforts by economic developers to attract other high-tech companies to the Valley.

“Companies make those decisions on the merits,” he said. “When it’s in their best business interest to locate here . . . they tend to make those decisions pretty independently.”

After two years, Google announced Friday that it will be closing its engineering center in Tempe on Nov. 21.

The company’s projects in Arizona have become “highly fragmented,” said Alan Eustace, senior vice president, and the search-engine powerhouse decided it would make more sense to incorporate the work into teams elsewhere at Google.

He said the company is working with the 50 Tempe employees to move them to other locations within Google.

“We’ve spent a lot of time structuring our engineering operations to make the most of the exceptional talent that’s available across America - developing local centers that give engineers the autonomy and opportunity to be truly innovative. These principles have served us well as we’ve grown, so when the model fails, it’s doubly disappointing,” Eustace said in a written statement.

The Silicon Valley-based company opened its Arizona engineering center at an Arizona State University-owned building in 2006 amid much fanfare. At that time university and economic development officials hailed the opening as evidence of the Valley’s competitiveness in attracting cutting-edge technology firms.

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