A months-long Google search for the perfect place in the Valley turned up Tempe and Arizona State University. The Internet giant said Friday it will open an office in the refurbished University Services Building on Rural Road south of Apache Boulevard.
The site will allow the company to begin hiring employees while it looks for a more permanent home for hundreds of employees in coming years.
Google chose the site on the ASU campus for a number of reasons including the fact it’s a great source of talent, said an employee overseeing the selection process.
“We wanted to have a site in a location our employees wanted to be,” said Douglas Merrill, senior director of information systems. “We wanted to be able to get them out of cars and have them walk around. We wanted to give them access to amenities and parks. ASU and Tempe as well provide that just in spades, so we’re very, very excited about the site we selected.”
The office will primarily focus on engineering, operations and IT support, and it is part of Google’s worldwide effort to build engineering centers where there are a pool of people for the jobs.
The company already hired more than 25 employees. Google will initially lease 10,000 square feet in a wing of the building, which serves as an ASU administrative building. The space will accommodate approximately 50 or more employees.
Google expects its operations to expand enough to use 28,000 square feet by July, enough space for approximately 150 employees.
In October the company announced it would move to the Valley, setting off months of speculation over where it would end up. Cities thought to be in the mix were Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler and Mesa. The company did the search on its own, bypassing traditional economic development channels. It also warned cities not to create too much fanfare in wooing it.
Local officials have said they expect the company to create 600 high-paying tech jobs, but Google has never used that number.
“We’ll be hiring hundreds of people in the coming years,” said Sonya Boralv, company spokeswoman. “We are looking to this to be . . . a significant Google operation. How long it takes to hire those just depends on how quickly we can find the right people. It’s really tough to give an exact number to an exact timeline.”
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said landing Google was a win for Tempe and the region.
“This proves the metropolitan area has the infrastructure and the quality of life to attract internationally known tech companies,” he said.
University officials said the selection is important for ASU symbolically.
“It says that ASU is producing the quality of knowledge worker to work at a first-rate company like Google,” said Rob Melnick, associate vice president of research. “It also says the Valley has come of age and is able to host and grow companies of this sort. The very fact they are here is a statement we couldn’t have made five or 10 years ago. It’s a recognition of the quality of ASU and of the students and faculty and that this region is ready to rock ‘n’ roll in the knowledge economy.”
Google will likely lure other high-tech companies who will see its presence here as a signal this is a good place for the industry, said Chris Salomone, Tempe’s community development services manager.
He likened Google to Nordstrom, which cities, mall owners and customers went crazy over a decade ago because it was at the top of its industry.
“Image and perception are important anymore, and I think Google has that cachet, that quality about it,” Salomone said.
ASU did not offer Google any financial inducements for moving into the building at 1551 S. Rural Road. The company is paying the market rate rent of $20 per square foot, officials said. The lease is for a maximum of three years.
ASU leases space to restaurants, food service companies, banks and other retail services in such places as its Memorial Union and Brickyard complex in Tempe.
“We have leased space to all sorts of companies before. But we have not had a relationship with a knowledge industry company like this before,” Melnick said.
University officials are pushing SkySong in Scottsdale as an ideal permanent location. The center for innovation and technology is a partnership between ASU and Scottsdale. It is on the southeast corner of McDowell and Scottsdale roads.
Google would certainly fit in with the theme of SkySong, said Dave Roderique, Scottsdale economic vitality director. The center is about three miles away from Google’s newly chosen home. “We’re pretty positive about today,” he said, adding the relationship with ASU will help. “I think this is probably as good as we can get today.”
Merrill wouldn’t say how long Google will use its new digs. “I just finished a site selection,” he said. “I’d like to enjoy it a little bit before I have to go do it again.”