One of the biggest tech companies in the world has plans to invest in Pittsburgh’s tech economy.
This week, Google announced that it would invest a total of $9.5 billion in its US offices and data centers this year, in an aim to create over 12,000 new jobs with the company across the country. And $15 million of that sum will reportedly go to Pennsylvania.
“Google’s offices and data centers provide vital anchors to our local communities and help us contribute to their economies,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, in a statement. “As we embrace more flexibility in how we work, we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Pittsburgh office growth
Pittsburgh, which hosts 800 Google employees, will also receive new attention from the company, including an expansion of its office to additional floors in Bakery Square this year, putting the total footprint of its local offices at 320,000 square feet.
Google’s presence here for more than a decade now has long been seen as an influence in accelerating the local tech and entrepreneurship economy. Many point to its 2009 expansion into the former Nabisco factory building in Bakery Square as a turning point for the city’s tech industry, though it brought gentrification in the surrounding East Liberty neighborhood, too.
“The City of Pittsburgh is proud to be the home of Google’s Pennsylvania office and more than 800 Google employees,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey in a statement. “Their expansion is another anchor in our City’s reputation as a leading technology center. We look forward to partnering with them as they continue to provide vital access to digital resources for families and local businesses in our community.”
Big Tech’s reported statewide impact
The news came in tandem with Google’s 2021 Economic Impact Report, which recapped national and state-level statistics on economic activity spurred by the company’s investments and other projects. In the Pennsylvania report, Google reported that it helped create $15.56 billion of economic activity last year across tens of thousands of businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers in the state.
The tech giant also reported that 757,000 Pennsylvania businesses received connections and requests from their customers regarding directions, phone calls, bookings, reviews and more through Google. The company also shared that it had provided Pennsylvania nonprofits with $18.59 million worth of free advertising in 2021 through the Google Ad Grants program.
The Pennsylvania report specifically highlighted a number of companies, including tech leaders in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Rudy Ellis, CEO of media multi-streaming tech company Switchboard Live, detailed how his company benefitted from Google Cloud, Google Ads and the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, which he received in 2019. That support, he said, helped his team increase signups for Switchboard’s platform by 400% since 2019.
The Google report also included East Liberty-based language learning tech company Duolingo as a featured business for Pennsylvania. Duolingo’s presence on the Google Play Store helped make the app available to Android users, Global Head of Communications Sam Dalsimer said of Google’s help in growing Duolingo’s user base. The language learning firm also uses YouTube to livestream its now annual DuoCon language convention, and stores its creative assets on Google Drive.
“If we didn’t have the Play Store and an Android app, we wouldn’t be able to reach so many people and offer the free education we’re looking to provide,” Dalsimer said in a statement.
The report also touted Google’s charitable activity across the state and Pittsburgh region, mentioning its awarding of over $3 million in grants to Pennsylvania nonprofits since 2017 and a total of more than $20 million in charitable giving (including matching from Google) from its Pennsylvania employees since 2005. Last year, Google brought a new introductory coding curriculum, CS First, to over 24,000 K-12 students in the state.
Locally, Google provided $330,000 to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library system in 2018 to launch a laptop and Wi-Fi device lending program. The company also said it has partnerships with the Kingsley Association, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, the Homewood Children’s Village, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, the Sarah Heinz House and more.
Though Google’s doubling down on its commitment to Pittsburgh isn’t surprising, it’s a boost of confidence in a city that’s continued to make bets on the future success of its tech economy over the past year. Dubbing itself as a leader for autonomy, robotics, AI and — in the not too distant future — life sciences, Pittsburgh has high hopes for its innovation economy. But those dreams can likely only be fulfilled as long as big tech companies maintain and grow locations here, bringing forward-thinking talent and big paychecks with them that can pour into homegrown businesses as well as multinational ones.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-