Google up to 300 workers in Ann Arbor after five years
Internet giant Google now has more than 300 people working at its Ann Arbor sales office, the company's local leader said this morning.
Google's Mike Miller, speaking this morning at an event marking the company's fifth anniversary in Ann Arbor, said Google's local focus is still trained on North American sales.
"Our hope would be that we continue to grow, that our business overall continues to grow, that the office will continue along that path," Miller said at leadership consultant Rob Pasick's breakfast event.
Steve Pepple | AnnArbor.com
Asked whether Google would consider expanding the functions of its Ann Arbor office beyond sales, he added: "We constantly look at other parts of Google that should be located here."
Google officially opened its Ann Arbor operation in September 2006 in a small second-floor office above Vinology on Main Street. Soon after that, the company moved to McKinley Inc.'s McKinley Towne Centre downtown office building at the corner of Liberty and Division.
Co-founded by University of Michigan graduate Larry Page — whose relationship with U-M President Mary Sue Coleman played a key role in the company's decision to locate here — Google was attracted to Ann Arbor's entrepreneurial sector and young talent.
Google originally promised to add 1,000 jobs over the first five years of its tenure in Ann Arbor, but the company's personnel growth slowed in the midst of the global financial crisis. To offset the personnel costs of its expansion, Google received approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) board in 2006 for a tax credit of up to $38.25 million over 20 years.
Although the company hasn't met its hiring target, it won't be forced to pay back taxes because MEGA tax credits are distributed on an incremental basis per hired employee.
The MEGA tax credit program was discontinued in 2011 as part of Gov. Rick Snyder's business tax reform legislation, but previous tax credit recipients were allowed to keep their credits.
About a year ago, Google told AnnArbor.com that it had about 250 employees at its office with plans to hire more workers in 2011 as part of the company's national hiring push.
Miller said the company has "over 300 people that work at our location." It's unclear how many of those are Google employees and how many are contractual workers. AnnArbor.com reported in September that Google was contracting with Bermuda-based outsourcer GenPact Ltd. to help staff its AdWords sales office.
The GenPact contractors, who were working side-by-side with Google’s employees at the Ann Arbor office, were described as conducting sales support activities for the AdWords operation. Most of Google’s local employees manage advertising relationships with major corporate customers.
Although Google doesn't have 1,000 employees, local economic development officials have still described the company's decision to locate in downtown Ann Arbor as a seminal moment for the image of the local tech community.
It's also provided downtown jobs for young professionals. Most of Google's Ann Arbor employees are young adults.
Most of the company's local focus is on sales of AdWords — the keyword-based text ads that are displayed alongside Google searches — and AdSense, which information publishers use to display ads alongside their content.
Colby Chilcote, a local Google employee, said one of the reasons she likes working for the company is its policy of allowing employees to dedicate 20 percent of their time to a project of their choosing.
"I am both encouraged and also supported to explore other interests I have," Chilcote said.
Miller emphasized that in Google's five years in Ann Arbor, it's made an impact on the community, too. The company donated more than $2 million in advertising to Michigan nonprofits in 2010, including Ann Arbor groups like writing coach nonprofit 826Michigan. In 2011, Google launched a service — MichiganGetOnline.com — to help small business owners launch a website for free.
About 58 percent of Michigan's small businesses don't have a website, Miller said.
"That means that you’re effectively invisible to people in this room everyday doing searches online," Miller said. "You’re not showing up when they’re doing their research."