Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Google comes to Ann Arbor

11. July 2006 • Dale Winling
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The lack of all-night doughnut shops be darned, the Associated Press is reporting that Google and Gov. Granholm will announce at 11am that the internet behemoth will open a facility in Ann Arbor that will employ 1,000.

While Michigan Radio reported that jobs may be available as early as today, Google Jobs still lists book scanners for its partnership with U-M libraries.

UPDATE: More thorough artlcle from the Free Press.

At an 11 a.m. news conference in Lansing today, Google will unveil plans to create a headquarters facility for its Google AdWords unit. AdWords offers “pay-per-click” ads that are triggered when Google users search for certain words. It is the company’s bread-and-butter advertising product and its primary source of revenue.

Google officials said they will start posting openings as early as today for jobs at the Ann Arbor facility at www.google.com/jobs.
[...]

Before this morning’s news conference, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority is expected to approve $38 million in Single Business Tax credits over 20 years for Google, whose development is expected to generate $165 million in tax revenue over that time.

As Google evaluates specific sites, it will work with local communities on other possible incentives to complement the MEGA tax credits.
[...]

The MEDC has been wooing Google ardently for about a year, ever since reports surfaced that the company was looking at Ann Arbor, Boston, Boulder, Colo., and the Phoenix area as possible sites for expansion.



  1. Now let’s see, where could an office of 1,000 people (in five years) be located. Ideally, since it is a “cool” company, they would want to be downtown. The only possible current options I can think of are the First National Building or maybe Tally Hall, either of which might work briefly, but are not actually that big. The proposed William Street Station is supposed to have 300,000 square feet of space which they would LOVE to lease to a company like this (they actually had this in mind when they were talking about building that much office space). It would be a nice, real mixed-use building at that point with affordable housing, leased office space, and market-rate condos/apartments. But it isn’t built yet. Same is true with Broadway Village, which would be another great possibility for a company like this.

    Unfortunately I assume they will be in one of the big new buildings on State/Eisenhower (they have some space already in that general area, but nothing of that size) or build something by the airport or in the townships. Ugh.

    Interestingly though, the mere fact that they are locating a big facility here is a huge, huge deal. They are THE company right now. I have already gotten e-mails from people at local small high-tech businesses talking about how this will help with both in-state and out-state recruiting.


       —Juliew    Jul. 11 '06 - 02:24PM    #
  2. I wonder if there are any tax incentives that might only be available within Ann Arbor versus locations outside the City? In any case, this a huge coup for the City and the State. One of the most vexing problems has been the exodus of graduates from U-M and elsewhere seeking out the Googles of the world anywhere but Michigan. Even if Google doesn’t provide direct employment opportunities for many of those students, I think it makes a statement that Michigan can be a destination, not just a place you came from.


       —John Q.    Jul. 11 '06 - 02:37PM    #
  3. “Ideally, since it is a “cool” company, they would want to be downtown.”

    Wouldn’t that be great?

    If they wind up at the edges of the city (e.g. by the airport or along Elsworth as you suggested), stick a fork in downtown, it’s done for. Google will act as a magnet for development if it’s near lots of buildable greenfield: high end restaurants, housing, shopping, etc.

    If they could somehow get them into Broadway Village, or somewhere near city center, this town would be reborn. And I don’t think that I’m exaggerating by much.

    Pretty great news!


       —todd    Jul. 11 '06 - 02:42PM    #
  4. When I saw the proposal for William Street Station, I thought, “Man, that would be perfect for Google.” Maybe we’ll finally get a decent donut shop on the ground floor. If the timeframe can be made to work for them, getting a commitment to lease that space could give William Street Station the kick in the pants it needs to become a reality.


       —eli    Jul. 11 '06 - 02:52PM    #
  5. This is wonderful news!! I sure hope they locate downtown. The present downtown office vacancy rate is a disastrous 12%. Google could certainly take care of that!

    I don’t know if they will have to be in one big building, though….


       —David Cahill    Jul. 11 '06 - 02:54PM    #
  6. The NY Times Technology site is saying it will be DOWNTOWN.


       —Dustin    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:08PM    #
  7. Here’s the NY Times article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/technology/11google.html?ex=1153281600&en=aec3dfe3c6f2ad78&ei=5070
    (You may need to register to read)

    It does say ‘downtown,’ but not in such a definitive or descriptive way that I would put too much stock in it.


       —Laura    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:16PM    #
  8. “The company has not picked a location yet, but Mayor John Heiftje said city officials have been told that Google is most interested in downtown Ann Arbor.” – according to Mlive


       —J    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:20PM    #
  9. Very curious to see how this will turn out, and how google as a company is going to approach the growing compition from MSN (which in all practical sense almost has an unlimited budget to throw at it).


       —Ross Johnson    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:20PM    #
  10. Finally, a piece of encouraging news in this otherwise moribund local economy. I wonder if the Ann Arbor Google “campus” will be largely contained and self-sufficient, like their main headquarters?


       —jcp2    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:31PM    #
  11. Dear Google,

    I would like to invite you to consider locating in Hip, Historic Hipsilanti.

    We will soon be able to offer you a nice large facility, complete with lake access.


       —Murph    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:31PM    #
  12. David—
    Google will be in whatever kind of building they want, even if it’s a 20 story office tower. Any politician who takes a 4-story stand will be run out of town on a rail.


       —Dale    Jul. 11 '06 - 03:41PM    #
  13. Uh-oh. In the press conference Granholm stated that Google will be up an running this fall.

    That means that they’ll be using an existing building…and that the building has already been chosen. I can’t think of anything that would fit the bill downtown, unless they are going into multiple buildings…..and that doesn’t make much sense.

    I think that JulieW is right re: location.


       —todd    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:06PM    #
  14. It could be they will be up and running in existing space, while at the same time, building new. Note the 1,000 jobs are over the span of 5 years.


       —Dustin    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:16PM    #
  15. 1) If I was the Governor, I would say Google will be “up and running”, even if involves one guy working out of a box.

    2) “Up and running” could mean anything – I would expect there’s going to be a certain amount of activity in advance of the real operations starting, especially for a project of this size.

    3) With all due respect to todd’s opinion on this, even if Google locates outside downtown, this isn’t going to be the death of downtown. How many people currently work in the City? 1000 new jobs is a great addition to the city workforce. But it’s a fractional addition, not a major addition. Those Google employees, especially the ones who can afford it, are likely going to live in the City and frequent downtown businesses. If they are out at Briarwood area, will they be there for lunch every day? No. But where do you think they’ll go for “happy hour” and on the weekends?


       —John Q.    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:20PM    #
  16. 100,000 jobs in A2. Why not Lowertown, at least 10 stories.


       —Dustin    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:22PM    #
  17. To clarify:

    “If they are out at Briarwood area, will they be there for lunch every day?”

    The point I meant to make is that the employees might not come downtown for lunch every day but they will come downtown for dining and entertainment after work, in the evening and on the weekend.


       —John Q.    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:23PM    #
  18. Note, Google Jobs now lists 5 types of openings, including online operations, rather than the 2 this morning.


       —Dale    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:36PM    #
  19. Ross Johnson’s comment [9] makes me wonder how many of the jobs to be located in the Ann Arbor facility will be basic customer support positions, which Google AdWords sorely needs in order to remain competitive in the contextual advertising game. For more on why basic customer support is the weak link in Google AdWords see here and here

    At last night’s candidate forum Sonia Schmerl expressed skepticism that there’s sufficient demand for the office space and housing that’s currently in the pipeline for downtown. And whether this breaking news takes any edge off that skepticism will depend, as many comments have already pointed out, on the location of the Plex.


       —HD    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:54PM    #
  20. Well, I know they already have space near the mall that could hold several hundred people temporarily. I say temporarily because frankly it is pretty soulless (but inexpensive) space that the University had for a few years and then got out as soon as soon as they could find buildings downtown. My guess is the same will happen with Google. They will sit out by the mall for a few years and will move downtown when appropriate space becomes available (ie., is built for them). I actually think William Street Station is a very good bet for this type of move because they have big space and are actively looking for this kind of tenant. I think the comment from the developer was “there are a lot of companies, like Google, who want this kind of large space in an exiting downtown area like Ann Arbor.”


       —Juliew    Jul. 11 '06 - 04:55PM    #
  21. “I wonder if there are any tax incentives that might only be available within Ann Arbor versus locations outside the City?”

    Perhaps David Cahill could enlighten us as to whether that would be a gift or a loan.


       —Robert Moses    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:04PM    #
  22. William St. Station but also the surface parking lot at Huron & Ashley (is that the Brown block?,) not far from the NS rail line, the Library Lot with underground parking, or Lowertown with at least 10 stories. Dale is right, they will have their pick of spots and it seems like building height will not be a problem.


       —Dustin    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:10PM    #
  23. They will want to be downtown until Ann Arbor pulls its usual stunt of not offering them any kind of corporate tax break, like they did with Pfizer which almost caused them to pull out.

    But if they do manage to stay in Ann Arbor, I’ll bet it will be in that new city development at broadway and plymouth.


       —MG    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:20PM    #
  24. If they build at William St. Station, they would be directly on top of the new transit center (which could greatly reduce the need for parking).

    This would also locate them within the DDA boundaries, which would make their employees eligible for go!Passes. Again, this could reduce the need for building parking structures/lots.

    If they really wanted to be progressive, they could even go as far as offering near-in housing benefits/credits to new employees.


       —kena    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:24PM    #
  25. AA News article


       —Dale    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  26. John Q “3) With all due respect to todd’s opinion on this, even if Google locates outside downtown, this isn’t going to be the death of downtown. How many people currently work in the City?”

    To clarify, I only said that it would kill downtown if they build in a large (i.e., acres and acres) greenfield area. In other words, in an area where a google-village could pop up to satisfy the high-end consumer needs of google employees.

    If this went in near the 777 building, the effect wouldn’t nearly as dramatic, and you are right… they’d more likely than not go to the downtown bars/restaurants after work/weekends.

    Who do I have to bribe to get Google into Broadway Village or the Williams St. project?

    .....kidding, kidding.


       —todd    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:30PM    #
  27. todd wrote: “a google-village could pop up to satisfy the high-end consumer needs of google employees.”

    Ramsey’s News piece includes this: “The jobs, primarily sales, marketing and business positions, would pay an average of $47,000 a year”

    It sounds like these will be good, solid jobs, but maybe not the kind that would support a high-end village? But if there is a high-end Google village, I will be applying for any position that starts with the word ‘village’.


       —HD    Jul. 11 '06 - 05:56PM    #
  28. I bet Cahill’s working on a petition to keep Google out of the City. Once you let one tech company into town, others might follow and then someone might want to build a building to accomodate it and that would be the end of all that’s good with A2.


       —John Q.    Jul. 11 '06 - 06:00PM    #
  29. HD,

    Ah…..didn’t see that. Thanks, HD. Shows how tech-knowledgeable I am. Someone had emailed me that these would be high end jobs, and to not ignore all the ancillary high paying support jobs that will arrive, but won’t be directly affiliated with Google.

    Wasn’t there an earlier thread here at Arbor Update a few months back that specifically described these potential jobs as high tech jobs?
    I thought that it had something to do with UMich library information transfer or something like that.

    If these are just a bunch of low/mid-end sales jobs, then this isn’t what I was expecting….I stand corrected.


       —todd    Jul. 11 '06 - 06:09PM    #
  30. This announcement seems to be a thing separate from the digitization project. However, Google apparently is still slowly expanding the number of people involved in that project. And who knows what will happen in a few years.


       —tom    Jul. 11 '06 - 06:19PM    #
  31. According to a Michigan.org press release, the Google office is expected to create over 1000 “spinoff” jobs and generate over 2 billion dollars in personal income.


       —J    Jul. 11 '06 - 06:42PM    #
  32. I went to the press conference today in Lansing, and here are my notes:

    http://vielmetti.typepad.com/vacuum/2006/07/google_ann_arbo.html

    I would have live-blogged from the press room, but there was no wifi.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 11 '06 - 07:12PM    #
  33. I have to throw in with Murph with the suggestion to site in Ypsilanti. Since the average starting pay is purported to be $47,000 or so, affordable housing may be an important factor. Heck, maybe Freed & Associates would construct a mixed use campus for them right in downtown. (Which would make Terry Bakery go to 24 hrs doughnut production.)


       —John Gawlas    Jul. 11 '06 - 07:33PM    #
  34. The Times (I think) ran an article a couple days ago about Google doing a lot of its own product and software development onsite(s), so I’d figure some of these will be tech jobs, too.

    Maybe someone who has their finger on the pulse of the tech world can improve on this, but it has always been my understanding that Google was at heart an advertising company—the search engine, Gmail, Google Earth, Sketchup, etc., were just ways to get you to look at and click on their ads. Unless this has been jettisoned in favor of their selling something, it seems like an ad center is at the heart of their business.


       —Dale    Jul. 11 '06 - 07:33PM    #
  35. I’ll second the Ypsi vote… lots more space and more need for the jobs and economic boost.


       —Brandon    Jul. 11 '06 - 07:38PM    #
  36. Re the Ypsi vote. Ypsi is a community around Ann Arbor. From Ramsey’s News piece: “The council has helped Google scout locations and although none has been selected, he said there are three ‘communities’ in and around Ann Arbor in the pool of site candidates.”

    So it’s possible that Ypsi is in fact in the running for the Goog.


       —HD    Jul. 11 '06 - 08:00PM    #
  37. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this but I am certain Google signed a 5 year lease about three months ago for 40,000sf of office space near Briarwood. I believe this is where they will start operations and gradually move over to their new digs when it is built for them.

    Michael


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 11 '06 - 09:02PM    #
  38. HD – Here in Ypsi’s Planning & Development Department (my ivory tower, high above the Huron River), we haven’t heard anything about Google scouting our fair town. Yet.

    However, we are now calling ourselves the “Planning to Recruit Google Development Department”. I’m working on getting the Historic District Commission to approve busts of Larry Page and Sergey Brin flanking Demetrius Ypsilanti at the foot of the Water Tower. ;)


       —Murph    Jul. 11 '06 - 09:11PM    #
  39. Not to be too much of a naysayer for Ypsi, but it would help if it had a functioning economy and stuff like, oh, a supported transit system. Very few companies want to come in and be the sole support of a dying economy. Ypsi is pretty small (population 23,000), the schools don’t have a good reputation, and I’m pretty sure the taxes are higher than in Ann Arbor. Not to mention that very few people outside of Ypsilanti have ever heard of it. I’m just not sure it is the kind of city Google wants. It would be a very big chance for them. Maybe they would do it, but I would be surprised.


       —Juliew    Jul. 11 '06 - 09:31PM    #
  40. How long before Larry Page visits Ann Arbor and realizes how much cooler it was ten years ago?


       —Dale    Jul. 11 '06 - 09:44PM    #
  41. My guess is that we’ll see Google start out slowly in AA, and then gradually expand into existing office space – not necessarily in one building. The difference between leasing existing space ($20 million) and building $50 million) according to the AA News should be significant.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 11 '06 - 09:56PM    #
  42. Even an empty Towne Center wouldn’t be big enough for their needs. Seems like it’ll take a brand-new building, and maybe Cahill’s actually right—multiple buildings (2+) in a kind of semi-campus somewhere. The idea that they could go into William Street Station is kind of interesting, though it seems just a little off-to-the-side…I could be wrong. (Wonder if we might see this getting built on the library parking lot, instead of a new city hall…) It does sort of make you wonder: why not Broadway? Dunno if the Broadway Village developer saw this coming or not. But I’m a little uncertain if Broadway has the necesary access. It’s got Plymouth Rd. and the bridge, but the intersection is a little crazy for 1000 employees to be driving through twice a day, and the other streets seem too small. Not sure if the Kingsley/Main intersection could handle the outbound traffic, and as for the inbound traffic, weren’t they talking about narrowing Division downtown? Anyway, I’m sure the city is already working through all this.

    Vielmetti’s take on the press conf. was kind of amusing—but it is a pretty decent score for the state, so they do have some reason to make a little noise about it.

    Todd, I think there will in fact be some related “high-tech jobs” that will come along with the rest, though sure maybe not as many as you thought—but my sense is that the scanning operation is expected to expand, and that it will do so in conjunction with this. (But remember that Google likes to fly under the radar. If it does expand, my guess is it would be a separate announcement much further down the road, or even none at all. Besides, the scanning operation might remain off-campus.)

    I’m sure the DDA et al will do everything they can to keep it downtown…the “other communities” would probably be places like Dexter or Scio Twp.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 11 '06 - 11:09PM    #
  43. How long before Larry Page visits Ann Arbor and realizes how much cooler it was ten years ago?

    Do I detect the first symptoms of what eventually will be a full-blown case of ‘a town not a city’ disease ;)


       —mw    Jul. 12 '06 - 12:38PM    #
  44. I spoke to the Mayor yesterday and he said that Google will locate “on the periphery” to begin with. I read this as outside of the city limits. He also said that A2 will need to sweeten the pot with more tax breaks on top of the $38 million the state is on the hook for. Given the facts below how much more do folks think the city should provide in tax relief?

    http://www.businessweek.com/print/investor/content/jul2006/pi20060711_169640.htm
    “The company went public, they’ve done fantastic, and now a bunch of them are getting rich.” In fact, the company’s top executives have earned more from their stock sales than the company has made in profits since it went public in August, 2004. They raked in $5.5 billion by unloading stock during the past 12 months, according to the data-monitoring service InsiderScore.com. From businesses such as online advertising, the company produced $1.47 billion net income during the entire year of 2005. During the year ended 2004 they made $399 million.


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 12 '06 - 01:36PM    #
  45. Google is used to moving it’s offices around as they expand. They recently moved their NYC office uptown to Times Square. They’re hiring like crazy here though I don’t think they have 1,000 people, yet. I went to an open house at their Times Square office a couple weeks ago and they reported about 200 engineers and over 200 ad-types here in New York…


       —Scott T.    Jul. 12 '06 - 02:02PM    #
  46. Here is an excerpt from the AP story:

    Job opportunities with Google’s Ann Arbor-area facility were expected to open quickly, officials said. They said the project is expected to generate 1,000 direct jobs within five years, as well as 1,200 indirect jobs.

    The state offered Google $38 million in tax breaks over 20 years, should its employment reach 2,000. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority met Tuesday morning and approved the incentives.

    If this story is correct, the tax break only kicks in if Google brings twice as many employees to Michigan as it is planning to! Is this accurate?

    If so, then the tax breaks were not an important part of Google’s decision to come here; Google picked us largely on our merits.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 12 '06 - 02:09PM    #
  47. For the record, EVERYWHERE was cooler ten years ago. Hoboken, Soho, Seattle, San Francisco. The exception might be Detroit….


       —Just a homeowner    Jul. 12 '06 - 02:19PM    #
  48. I spoke briefly with Micheal Shore at MEDC yesterday – he’s a press guy, not a policy guy, but the easiest to get through to – who said that the Michigan Economic Growth Authority Act (quick search looks like Act 24 of 1995) requires that the state tax breaks be accompanied by local tax breaks. So, statutorily, anybody who wants google is going to have to pony up.

    Tim – are you saying that Ann Arbor should turn down Google because they’re too profitable?

    (Now, as I read the poorly formatted online legislation, it looks like the statutorily-rquired local contribution is of unspecified magnitude: the local governmental unit in which the eligible business will expand, be located, or maintain retained jobs, or a local economic development corporation or similar entity, will make a staff, financial, or economic commitment to the eligible business for the expansion, retention, or location. Don’t know offhand what MEDC’s deal requires of the/a local host community.)


       —Murph    Jul. 12 '06 - 02:53PM    #
  49. According to yesterday’s MEDC news release, Google was given a “high tech single business tax credit” worth $38 million.

    The single business tax itself is set to expire within a couple of years. Did Michigan give Google a largely-illusory tax credit?

    Has anyone seen the actual tax credit agreement?


       —David Cahill    Jul. 12 '06 - 03:14PM    #
  50. “Did Michigan give Google a largely-illusory tax credit?”

    No. Legislation was just signed into law to preserve the tax credits even after the SBT expires.

    “Don’t know offhand what MEDC’s deal requires of the/a local host community.”

    MEDC usually asks for a tax abatement. Some communities have been able to meet the local commitment through infrastructure improvements, waiving fees or other incentives that match the value of the tax abatement. It doesn’t have to be a tax abatement but it will have to be something.


       —John Q.    Jul. 12 '06 - 03:49PM    #
  51. Does anyone know if Michigan revised its rate of taxing manufacturing vs. service-type businesses? Manufacturers pay less in taxes than service businesses. Google would be a service, and the tax abatement from the state might be the amount of extra tax it would pay versus a manufacturer….


       —Just a homeowner    Jul. 12 '06 - 04:21PM    #
  52. Here is an Ann Arbor News article about where Google will locate.

    Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, said Tuesday that Google co-founder and U-M graduate Larry Page told her he’d like Google to be in downtown Ann Arbor.

    In an e-mail sent to city officials, City Administrator Roger Fraser said Google told the city during a one-hour meeting Tuesday that it wanted to be downtown, and that new construction “is a distinct possibility.”

    Among possible locations listed by the News is the Brown block, site of the proposed Calthorpe Place.


       —David F    Jul. 12 '06 - 04:24PM    #
  53. I think giving incredibly rich people and well off corporations tax abatements or tif deals where all of the additional tax revenue is spent on or near their private property sets a horrible precedent. A few years ago the city approved a Pfizer tax break which is due to expire soon. I’m willing to bet it will be extended if Pfizer asks. Another smaller corporation got a tax abatement in the past year and now one of the most successful and wealthy corporations in the world will get an abatement. So in the future any CEO worth her or his salt will shake down the city (and state) for an abatement. The percentage of taxes paid by corporations has dropped steadily in the US since the 1950’s while the burden on people has steadily increased. Income inequality is a or maybe the great issue of our time. By giving abatements to those least in need of a break we exacerbate the situation.

    If David is right and this was a location decision on the merits and not the abatement, why did the state give up $38 mill? Why would the city do the same to enhance the bank accounts of gazillionaires while increasing the % of taxes paid by the homeowner? Why should the taxpayers in Detroit subsidize business to locate in Ann Arbor?


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 12 '06 - 04:54PM    #
  54. “Among possible locations”

    ...and also 415 W. Washington, 712 N. Main, the Library Lot, the City Hall lot, and William Street Station.

    Um, I’ll just be over here – in my bomb shelter.


       —Murph    Jul. 12 '06 - 04:54PM    #
  55. “Why would the city do the same to enhance the bank accounts of gazillionaires while increasing the % of taxes paid by the homeowner?”

    Because they’ve looked at the numbers, and decided that the relationship is exactly the opposite of what you describe—if the benefit to the city from Google locating here is greater than the cost of the tax abatement, then your property taxes are likely to be lower with the abatement then they would be without it.


       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 12 '06 - 05:22PM    #
  56. “Manufacturers pay less in taxes than service businesses.”

    I think most manufacturers would disagree with that statement. What’s it based on?


       —John Q.    Jul. 12 '06 - 05:31PM    #
  57. I love this lead in the News today:

    “It’s the multimillion-dollar – and thousand-parking-spot – question: Where will Google go?”

    http://www.mlive.com/news/aanews/index.ssf?/base/news-18/11527152409090.xml&coll=2

    Do we seriously expect every Google employee to drive their own car to work, especially if the company is located downtown? OK, it doesn’t say anywhere in the article that they need 1000 spots so one could consider the headline misleading but the implication is that parking is the detail that could sink downtown locations.


       —John Q.    Jul. 12 '06 - 05:34PM    #
  58. “Because they’ve looked at the numbers, and decided that the relationship is exactly the opposite of what you describe—if the benefit to the city from Google locating here is greater than the cost of the tax abatement, then your property taxes are likely to be lower with the abatement then they would be without it.”

    Since “they” haven’t even decided the number in the city, how do you know? Is it always a simple striaght line calculation? “They” may not know what they are doing. Or “they” may be in trouble in their re-election bid. And finally if the decision on location is not due to the abatement, then its just tax revenue lost that otherwise would be available. Would you argue that we should just give everyone who threatens not to improve their property an abatement on improvements because the city will realize more tax revenue if people build improvements? Try that the next time you replace your deck.


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 12 '06 - 05:56PM    #
  59. If I were Google, and making a deal with the City, I would one parking spot per worker at the top of my must-have list.

    Remember – “In Michigan there can be nothing wrong with the car (IMTCBNWWTC).”

    Thanks for the Calthorpe Place link! My figures may be more relevant than I thought at the time….


       —David Cahill    Jul. 12 '06 - 05:57PM    #
  60. Michael commented [37]

    Google signed a 5 year lease about three months ago for 40,000sf of office space near Briarwood

    I think that was for their book scanning project with U of M libraries. It gives them another presence in town, but it’s a different project.


       —archipunk    Jul. 12 '06 - 06:01PM    #
  61. The aforementioned article in #57 sounds like it came from the Detroit News (which is not a compliment).

    When are people going to think of employees as people and not as extensions of their cars?
    My butt isn’t as small as it used to be, but it isn’t made of metal and it doesn’t weigh 2000 lbs!
    I am capable of getting to work/shopping/etc. without my oversized Pontiac/BMW/pick your model handbag (and often do).

    1000 parking spots won’t be necessary if Google moves into the downtown area (especially if we’re talking about places like Lowertown or William St. Station). There are plenty of alternative options that can be explored if the city doesn’t completely sell its soul during the negotiations.

    The question is going if the various admin. units within the city, county, etc. are going to step up to make sure that the city gets just as much out of this deal for the community (in terms of benefits that aren’t explicitly economic) as it puts in/gives up.

    Also, are we going to use this development as a model for how things could be done in a new and innovative way (i.e. develop inside the existing city, use alternative transportation methods, etc.) or are we going to do business as usual and have Google build/exist on the periphery and help contribute to the decentralization and sprawl that is overtaking the county?


       —kena    Jul. 12 '06 - 06:04PM    #
  62. Remember – “In Michigan there can be nothing wrong with the car (IMTCBNWWTC).”

    Except everything and this move has been hailed as a first step for Michigan to unshackle itself from the car. But I’m not one to point out contradictory logic and sloganeering.


       —Dale    Jul. 12 '06 - 06:06PM    #
  63. Heh, yeah Murph, it’s a good thing none of those are controversial locations! :)

    John Q., I see your point, but parking is going to be a big deal, even if only a third of employees drive (that would be a very low estimate—I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that at least half will be driving.)

    However, the real reason, I think, why parking will be an issue is…it’s looking like either the Brown block or the library lot is going to be the location (if it’s downtown, that is). 415 Washington: probably a no-go. Too much traffic for the neighborhood. Also, the city wants to start developing the old industrial area by the railroad tracks with retail, which means relocating the art center, and the art community would have a fit if they got forced out of both locations. 712 N. Main could fit right into the plan, but the problem is there’s nothing else there yet. Sure, Google could obviously be the anchor for all that. I guess it’s a question of how far and how fast things could (or should) go if that becomes the plan. It’s possible that with enough planning and good faith about future development it could work, but I’m not sure…we’ll see.

    The library lot is looking pretty attractive—the primary flaw being that the mayor has already suggested moving City Hall to that location (though I’m sure he’d be more than happy to step aside in place of Google!). The secondary flaw is, of course, the same flaw the mayor’s plan had: there’s a library next door that needs an easily accessible lot. At this point I’m kind of liking the proposal (above somewhere, I think) of giving Google the library building itself, and putting the library elsewhere (since they’re already planning on rebuilding it, anyway). Of course the question then becomes: where do we put the library? But a library might be more suitable for some of the proposed Google sites (N. Main, W. Washington—hey, there’s irony for you—maybe they’ll rebuild the library across from the Y!)

    The AA News article points out a bad flaw with the City Hall site; there’s currently a city hall there. Probably a no-go, but still possible—I’d put it below the N. Main site in terms of feasibility.

    And the AA News put William Street Station floor space at less than 125K sq. ft., which is apparently not big enough.

    (And of course, they didn’t mention Broadway, which they should have, IMO.)

    The Brown lot seems like the obvious winner in terms of attractive locations, but again, it would still mean destroying downtown’s primary surface lot. Since surface parking is, IMO, a part of what keeps some out-of-towners out-of-town, this could be a significant loss. And regardless, it still would need to be replaced by a structure from a purely practical standpoint. So where is the structure going to go? W. Washington? Then where does the art center get relocated?

    It sounds more and more like a major planning operation will be needed. Like they said, all options are on the table—they’ll need them!

    (There actually is one more option, I think, that no one has discussed, but since no one has brought it up I won’t be the first to suggest it!)

    (Also, Todd, there was a comment on Vielmetti’s website that AdWords will probably require a significant amount of technical support, in addition to sales and marketing, and that this will probably be on-site.)

    Looks like Calthorpe maybe came and went a year too early :) We have them on redial, right?


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 12 '06 - 06:16PM    #
  64. “Since “they” haven’t even decided the number in the city, how do you know? Is it always a simple striaght line calculation?”

    None of us knows anything yet, obviously. If we want to deal with an example where more is known, it might be worth looking in more detail at the numbers in the case of Pfizer.

    “And finally if the decision on location is not due to the abatement, then its just tax revenue lost that otherwise would be available.”

    Could be.

    “Would you argue that we should just give everyone who threatens not to improve their property an abatement on improvements because the city will realize more tax revenue if people build improvements?”

    No. Just to state the obvious: even if there were in theory some gain the city could make by negotiating this kind of thing with every homeowner, the cost required to do so probably wouldn’t be worth it.


       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 12 '06 - 07:10PM    #
  65. The abatement question is a simple one. Face reality. For a location to even be in the running for a Google facility there were obviously a few pre-qualifications.
    One: Attractive city, fine quality of life. (Boulder & A2 are both highly rated)
    Two: A tax package.
    It does not matter a wit how much profit Google makes each year. Nor does it matter that the city and state cannot give a tax break to the person who builds on a deck or a puts up a new house. Google or any other “hot” company is going to play the game as long as it is offered and it will never end. So, if A2 or Michigan decide they are not going to play anymore, there will be a party in Ohio and Minnisota and Colorado and in every state that competes. They are happy to play and win when they can. And, if the US decides not to play anymore, Canada will play and Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all very fine cities. If folks like Tim don’t want the state and city to play the game, and they have a sound moral argument, they should explain it to the folks who won’t get these jobs, explain it the community when taxes go up and something that has not been mentioned here, explain it the starving non-profits that serve those who need it most in our community. The same ones who get a part of millions given out by Pfizer because they are still here and not expanding in Kalamazoo where they are downsizing. Google will be another great partner to keep the shelter open, to fund the Corner Health Center, to help keep Ypsis rec system running…


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 02:59AM    #
  66. The Governor “gets it,” others do not. Some refer to an abatement as a “cost” to the city and state. But, for example, Pfizer pays a lot more in taxes than they did before. Abatements are usually for 50% of the “new investment,” never more. The company pays what they did before plus 50% more and when the abatement expires, they pay on every dollar of investment. Without the company being here, there would be no abatement to “give” and thus, no reward in the way of increased tax revenues and of course jobs and all the other benefits that come from investment in a community. The other benefits accrue to the community as the dollars paid in wages pass through and bounce around the local economy.


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:12AM    #
  67. That’s the party line from pro-abatement types.

    The flip side of that argument is that many fine companies have located in Ann Arbor without an abatement. Plus, Ann Arbor is an attractive location for business for many reasons. So why “give away the store” when A2 will get businesses to come here anyways. It’s not like A2 is Flint or Detroit or Benton Harbor. We’ll get the tax base and the businesses, it just might not be Google.

    Myself, I’m somewhere between those two positions.


       —John Q.    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:14AM    #
  68. Dustin: Tim C. and the rest of us ‘get it,’ we just don’t pretend that the current globalized market structures are the result of some natural economic evolutionary process. They are the result of a very concerted effort to consolidate power and control (through capital) into the hands of a shrinking few.

    We also don’t ignore the fact that these types of policies have very serious implications for the have-nots of this country (and other countries around the world), whose numbers continue to increase at an alarming rate.

    We can all continue the race to the bottom that you describe as regions compete against each other to provide subsidies to corporations, or maybe at some point we can begin to think about different models of economics that aren’t so cut-throat (though I’m in my 30s, I doubt that I’ll live to see it).

    Has anyone ever asked if large, high-profile companies aren’t necessarily the best way for a region’s economy to go?

    If you contrast Flint and Detroit, one of the reasons Detroit’s economy wasn’t ravaged in the same way as Flint’s (and no I’m not saying that Detroit hasn’t been wounded due to cut-throat tax incentives offered by its surrounding areas) was because Detroit’s economy was comprised of tons of medium and small job shops which supported the large assembly plants (and the plants of other industries as well). Flint didn’t have this structure to the same extent that Detroit did, and look what happened when the assembly lines began to close.

    Michigan needs a mix of small, medium, and large businesses, but the first two are often being lost in the shuffle as policy makers focus on the large, shiny pieces of fruit.

    Small and medium businesses have always been the backbone of the American economy (in terms of people employed)...it’s just that large corporations usually get the limelight.


       —kena    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:15AM    #
  69. Surely if we play the Google execs this Dave Lawson song their descision will be made for them.


       —Brandon    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:46AM    #
  70. Tim, I agree with your reasoning to a point. But there’s a problem here, which is – you do get tax benefits like Google’s! (As do I, now.)

    The state (generalized) has decided that it is advantageous to have people own homes, so it gives a tax break to those fortunate sons. Mortgage interest and property taxes: deductible = tax break for capital investment!

    Additionally, homestead tax rates are lower than non-homestead tax rates = tax break for capital investment!

    Furthermore, if you live in a historic district or some other such area, you can get a tax break for some portion of renovations you make to your house, as the state has also decided that it’s beneficial to maintain historic “resources”. Tax break for capital investment!

    Of course, it’s generally the case that homeowners are wealthier / have a more stable income than renters, or else they wouldn’t be able to become homeowners. Are we (gasp!) giving tax breaks to our better-off citizens as a reward for being better off? The horror! I never knew such a thing was happening!

    (Yes, it’s still possible to question the magnitude of, say, a Google tax incentive/abatement; it’s also perfectly right, in my mind, to question the overall economic picture, as kena notes. I object, however, to the complaint on principle of “increasing the % of taxes paid by the homeowner”, when homeowners them(our)selves are receiving similar benefits at the expense of the next social strata down.)


       —Murph    Jul. 13 '06 - 01:07PM    #
  71. We simply have to recognize reality. I agree with you that abatments should not be needed, that these corporations have enough money already but if Michigan were to suddenly say, “we aren’t going to play anymore,” the state would be at a huge disadvatage. A rules change needs to come from the federal government making abatements illegal for all states. In this case A2 has no choice, the state has already agreed to the tax credits and the city or Township where Google settles will have to agree to some sort of abatement or lose 1000 jobs and all the other economic benefits, many noted above.


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 01:07PM    #
  72. “In this case A2 has no choice, the state has already agreed to the tax credits and the city or Township where Google settles will have to agree to some sort of abatement or lose 1000 jobs and all the other economic benefits, many noted above.”

    We do have a choice. Although, walking away from this sort of “opportunity” has become more difficult because of past choices to not do so re: Pfizer, Parke-Davis. Opting out is just a different path, not necessarily a worse one. The path favored by most may seem more secure/safe, but it may not be in the long run. Ann Arbor could just be a university town (top ten or not), and people who want more could move to Chicago. Would that be so horrible?

    Note the example in the linked article of the local business expanding with the help of a tax abatement. Compare that to the “need” to entice mega-corps to locate and stay here. We have a choice.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 13 '06 - 02:28PM    #
  73. Oh, come on, Steve. Parke-Davis was the drug company that ended up as part of Pfizer years ago, so either you’re citing the same example twice or talking about something that happened a decade or more ago.

    There’s a reason why you don’t have a bunch of examples. Ann Arbor is noted for its reluctance to hand out tax abatements, compared to any other city in Michigan. Imagine what Flint or Saginaw or Alpena would give away for 1,000 Google jobs. The city of Ann Arbor’s contribution to the Google incentive package is likely to be token by comparison.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:03PM    #
  74. P.S. to Steve: As the story you linked to puts it, “But some – most notably the city of Ann Arbor – hand out tax abatements sparingly, if at all.”


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:05PM    #
  75. Another question then: Does Ann Arbor, as the recipient of billions of dollars in Michigan taxpayer dollars over the years,(UM) have an obligation to help the state out of the economic downturn that has resulted from the crisis in the US auto industry or should this community take up the draw bridge and withdraw behind the Greenbelt and be a quaint little college town? As to Pfizer, can you say with absolute certainty that they would not be consolidating in Kalamazoo instead of A2 if they had not received a modest tax break that expires in a few years? And if you cannot, then how would the city be filling the huge hole in its tax revenues?


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:10PM    #
  76. Dustin, that’s an interesting point you raise about the state’s huge subsidy to Ann Arbor because of all the money we receive thanks to the U of M.

    I have often said (and will say here again) that without the University, Ann Arbor would be like Chelsea.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:21PM    #
  77. Larry makes a great point. In its entire history A2 has handed out what, 4 abatement packages? One to Parke-Davis decades ago, one to Pfizer, the largest taxpayer and largest private employer and a couple of small tech companies in the last few years. I don’t recall any more, do you? Some places hand them out like candy. Look at Ypsilanti Township.


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:28PM    #
  78. I don’t think AA’s “UM subsidy” is quite as clear cut as it might seem. Yes, AA most definitely benefits from the presence of the university, but those benefits are mitigated by factors such as the huge amounts of land that are removed from AA’s tax grid because of the University’s geographical presence within the city. That’s a pretty big opportunity cost. Look at Ypsi…large university presence (not the size of UM, but very few are), but with a less diverse economy to help offset the University’s land holdings…so it isn’t quite as prosperous at this point.


       —kena    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:32PM    #
  79. Some people are missing the point and, of course, so is Google.

    Google’s operating slogan is: first, do no evil. Now whether one considers the forced prostrating of municipalities on a tax basis ‘evil’ is, as with all things, open to debate. However, there is no doubt that Google is inordinately successful and wealthy having VERY LITTLE to do with tax abatements. If Google wanted to come here for the accessible knowledge base (UM and a highly educated community), for the accessible research opportunities and partnership/purchasing possibilities (UM and a number of local start-ups), for the atmosphere, and for some tiny measure of loyalty on the part of Page, they would STILL be inordinately successful and wealthy. Extracting tax abatements on top of that is based on one thing and one thing only: the bottom line, which is now partially determined by the influence of (wealthy) stockholders and a board of (wealthy) directors willing to play the game as it is played today. It will be interesting to see how long Google’s slogan holds up, or what excuses they will be willing to make to claim that it still holds true.

    Google is about providing information access to everyone. However, the more imbalanced our economic situation becomes, the less able (access, time, usefulness) the have-nots will be to get or utilize that information. It’s time to see what is more important to the company: its profit margin or its philosophy.


       —Marc R.    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:41PM    #
  80. Larry, I don’t get it. Are you suggesting that I exaggerated something? I was making a comment about choice in response to Dustin’s “reality” comment, and providing background material to support (not prove) my point.

    If you think the abatements were a good thing, just say so. It’s hard for me to argue that they were a bad thing for Ann Arbor, since it’s probably impossible to know (at this point.) I could probably argue more strongly that they’re a bad thing in the broader context of our society, as kena noted.

    What I definitely can argue (and did with the mayor and Jean Carlberg, privately, and city council as a whole, publicly, back in 2003) is that we should have a POLICY for granting them. I’ve even suggested a basis for such a policy and the Environmental Commission (including two current council members) unanimously approved it for recommendation to council. Maybe it’ll hit the table before the next request.

    Dustin, you pose a good question. Re: the U, I think the answer is no, the state of the state is not our responsibility to a greater extent than any other community’s. The state government has the responsibility to manage our state taxes fairly. That’s a separate issue from the tax abatement question, in any case.

    As for Pfizer, I have no idea what they would have decided. If they had left, we (who chose to stay) would have dealt with it as best as possible. Other companies would have come to use the land that would have been freed up (most likely without tax abatements.)

    So, what’s so great about Larry’s point?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 13 '06 - 03:56PM    #
  81. Steve: I agree with your points. If abatements are truly “necessary”, then we do need to have a guiding policy which sets up a framework that decisions can be made within. I also agree that everyone in the state receives tax dollars or directly benefits from them in some way, so AA is more no accountable for the state’s well being than anybody else within the state. We all need to work together to turn this economy around, but Michigan isn’t very good at that yet.

    Cahill: To say that without the UM, AA would be like Chelsea is a tough argument to make because AA was selected for the UM over several other small communities at that time because it had an economy already rooted in a few small industries. If the UM hadn’t come to AA, who knows what it would look like now…maybe it would have grown into a one-horse manufacturing center and would be a burned-out rust belt city by now?

    Marc: My girlfriend and I were having a discussion about Google’s alleged culture last night. Do you think that “don’t be evil” has always been just a PR slogan…or do you think that those underlying principles really are practiced, but are starting to go out the window since Google became a publicly traded company?


       —kena    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:14PM    #
  82. This is an interesting discussion, so far pretty devoid of the personal attacks that often substitute for honest debate.

    Steve, it seems obvious that there should be a policy for granting tax abatements. Is it really clear that there isn’t??? Nothing at all, or nothing you consider adequate?

    What kind of response did you get in your 2003 discussions?

    What is the policy your committee recommmended to the City Council?


       —AK    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:16PM    #
  83. Dave—without U-M in Ann Arbor, Chelsea wouldn’t be like Chelsea—it would be like…Coldwater. Or Niles.


       —Dale    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:38PM    #
  84. Larry pointed out that A2 government is very stingy about tax abatements. It is not as if they hand them out freely. On the scale of things, there are a lot of other places for people who don’t want abatements, to point a finger at before A2. That’s all.


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:40PM    #
  85. If A2 did not have UM and was not the same A2 Chelsea would not be Chelsea because they too live off A2.


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 04:53PM    #
  86. Just to be clear, Dustin, I didn’t say I didn’t want abatements. In fact, the policy recommendation from the commission encourages them—just not for any and everyone who asks. (Hmm, any idea how many companies asked and were turned down by Ann Arbor in the past 20 years, Larry?)

    I’ve gotta get some work done, but I’ll post the language (and some thoughts on it) later, AK. Briefly, it’s about wanting businesses that are sustainable, in terms of the three E’s: equity, ecology, and economy.

    In 2003, some members of council got the impression that I was scolding them. That was about right. I’m less judgmental of them now. Sadly, Jean’s response to my comment that we should support locally owned businesses was that most of them aren’t locally owned. The appropriate reply (which only came to me later) would be, why is that and what are we doing to make that so (and not doing to encourage them)?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 13 '06 - 05:03PM    #
  87. Public corporations have a fiduciary commitment to their stockholders to make money. “Not doing evil” comes in second to this. Universities have no such fiduciary commitment. I think it is important to keep this in mind when discussing the relevant tax subsidies/contributions. Home ownership tax write offs were key in creating the middle class of America and a society with significant home ownership. I’m not sure that corporate tax abatements have led to any great social improvements in the US as a whole (in fact just the opposite may be argued). Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this. Also, maybe the relevant question for us at this juncture is: if a bidding war between Scio, Pittsfield and A2 city commences, how much, if anything, should the city give up to have Google downtown. As to the short list of abatements given by A2 city historically, we may be seeing the end of that era. Two abatements in less than a year may be the beginning of a new “unwritten” policy by Mayor Hieftje. He supports abatements and city partnerships guaranteeing private developers city financed improvements to ensure bank financing. Maybe its time to put an “Open for Business” sign at Fifth and Huron.


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 13 '06 - 05:43PM    #
  88. Steve: I was reacting to your line “walking away from this opportunity has become more difficult because of past choices not to do so.”

    The implication is that (1) the city of Ann Arbor hands out an excessive number of tax abatements, and (2) past tax abatements prevent the city from rejecting Google. I strongly disagree with both assertions.

    Not only has Ann Arbor been very restrained about tax incentives, but its history of saying “no” has made it easier to say “no” to most requests, and to discourage others from even asking. I admit to getting a bit upset when you seemed to be claiming the exact opposite.

    Further, I don’t think there are any plausible scenarios in which Ann Arbor says “no thanks” to Google. Yeah, the company could theoretically demand something so outrageous that it would alienate a lot of Ann Arborites, but Google is noted for intelligence, not for stupidity.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 13 '06 - 06:04PM    #
  89. Larry, I didn’t imply that (1) and can’t even objectively read that into what I wrote. Please read #72 (and subsequent comments) again, you may have missed some things.

    And “prevent” (2) is beyond what I implied—the precedent set by the (I agree, few) abatements granted in the past is now the apparent (and you know what ‘appearances’ are) SOP of the city. If a policy had been developed prior to, or even immediately after, the Pfizer approval, we may still have granted the last two, but we would now know what those “plausible scenarios” for rejection would be. (I’m still curious how many have been turned down.)

    PS: I apologize if I threw your words back at you and/or Dustin. I’ve got my own frustrations. ;-)


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 13 '06 - 06:42PM    #
  90. Mr. Collenback: If A2 simply said, “we no longer believe in tax abatements,” refused to discuss them with the state or Google and Google goes somewhere else. Would you support this action?


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 07:16PM    #
  91. Dustin – I would like there to be a charter amendment put to the voters to prohibit tax abatements. The proponents could set out why they think its a good idea and those that oppose it could set out their arguments and the community would decide. I would have to be convinced that the charter amendment is a bad idea. I think the Googles of the world should pay their fair share same as other businesses/taxpayers.


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 13 '06 - 07:54PM    #
  92. Understood. You believe the voters should make the decision. But, there is no time for that on this decison. Would you support the city council if they say no to a tax abatement for google?


       —Dustin    Jul. 13 '06 - 08:34PM    #
  93. “I would like there to be a charter amendment put to the voters to prohibit tax abatements.”

    It would be interesting to read how this language would be structured. If the intent is to attack “public subsidies”, one could claim that the variations given in zoning in exchange for affordable housing, open space, etc. are public subsidies.


       —John Q.    Jul. 13 '06 - 09:00PM    #
  94. We pay less taxes per barrel of beer to the State than a larger brewery does. Is this an abatement?

    Personally, I think you’re insane if you think that Google isn’t going to get exactly what they ask for, so long as it is a reasonable request. The State of Michigan has way too much invested in making this happen to let small town (and I’m using this term specifically) politics get in the way of this deal.

    1,000 job, new economy businesses don’t grow on trees…especially in Michigan. We’ll make back whatever token amount we give them in no time.


       —todd    Jul. 13 '06 - 09:10PM    #
  95. kena said: “Do you think that “don’t be evil” has always been just a PR slogan…or do you think that those underlying principles really are practiced, but are starting to go out the window since Google became a publicly traded company?”

    I think it has been real for them, for the most part, to date. Google does do everything for ‘free’. Their production of usable shareware exceeds most other companies I’ve ever heard of. Their internal culture seems to reflect this egalitarianism, as it has been reported in more than one source that even the multi-millionaires at the HQ drive Honda Civics or something like it. Then the matter arose about acceding to the PRC’s censorship. They had to ask the question: Is it proper to sacrifice our mission of ‘info for all’ by excluding SOME info so that MOST can get through to a lot more people? Or was it just a matter of ad dollars and making sure that MSN and Yahoo didn’t beat them in that very large corner of the world?

    Same thing here: Do they want to bring a portion of their business to a very useful area with a lot of potential and a very receptive community? Or do they simply want to make it here as cheaply as possible? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, but I certainly have my suspicions.

    Tim said: “Public corporations have a fiduciary commitment to their stockholders to make money. “Not doing evil” comes in second to this.”

    No. Absolutely not. It is precisely this philosophy (among others, including drastic and willful misinterpretations of Adam Smith and the assumption that a skewed market is a ‘free’ market) that has seriously corrupted the concept of the corporation in recent times. A corporation has a responsibility to its customers and the community in which it resides. Period. Investment in stock, like any other investment, is a RISK; one assumed by the stockholder, NOT by the corporation, NOT by any recipient of the corporation’s products or services or its existence. The corporation performs to stay in business. The stockholder assumes the wisdom of the staff of that corporation and provides money in the hopes of gaining money (long-term, I must emphasize) in return. This ‘fiduciary responsibility’ buzz-phrase basically absolves said corporation of any responsibility to its employees, to the environment, to the community around it, anyone. Not meaning to bust on you, Tim, but that lingo really annoys me.

    Back on topic: In this situation, I’m thinking Google could best ‘do no evil’ by reversing the race to the bottom among municipalities and states. THAT would be something to talk about. And it’s not as if it would be completely bereft of economic trend-following. Scuttlebutt has it that investing in ‘socially responsible’ corporations is one of the biggest growth sectors out there…


       —Marc R.    Jul. 14 '06 - 01:23PM    #
  96. More google requirements:
    Don’t forget the required extra wiring & secret NSA
    rooms.


       —J. Negroponte    Jul. 14 '06 - 06:26PM    #
  97. I’m not sure a written abatement policy would be the best idea. First I’m concerned about the possibility that it would legally commit us to offer more abatements. Second, since abatements are generally tailor-made for each situation as they arise, why tie our hands with a written policy that we can’t amend?

    I agree that small- and medium-sized businesses should be just as (if not more) encouraged as large businesses (especially if they’re local), but not all of it is within our control. I mean, the SBT repeal is on the November ballot—what more do you want? I mean, how about a new zoning map? Ah, but we’re supposed to get upset about that, because Calthorpe recommended it…or something. (I’m not necessarily saying the same people share these attitudes, I’m suggesting that the policies that have actually been suggested to help out small- and medium-sized businesses seem to get a lot of bad press.) For that matter, what about all the various park and greenway proposals—how do those help out small and medium-sized business? Don’t they remove land from commercial development, squeezing the small players further out of the game? I just don’t see a viable alternative strategy being proposed here. This doesn’t mean that everything pro-development advocates say and do is a good thing; it means that the alternatives don’t always seem either workable or desirable, or coherent.

    Yes, we do have a choice, I agree. We could choose to try and wall off the outside world—it’s an option. We could agree to freeze all new development and prop up remaining businesses with, well, I don’t know what…surely the money must come from somewhere. The residents? Whoops—stagnant/declining population and household size. Well, then from all those new township residents—who will need parking spaces…which we’re replacing with parks. Well…

    See, I completely agree that the preservation of character (including long-time businesses) should be at the top of the list of the city’s goals. I just don’t see how to get there by shutting the outside world out of Ann Arbor. If we could do it, well, alright, I would take the possibility seriously, but there are many things that are beyond our control. If the Regents want to raise tuition and boost enrollment, then…that drives up housing prices (more demand, plus more borrowed Federal dollars coming into the economy from outside to supply the rent) and slows in-city population growth. If the university wants to build fancy new labs and clinics and fund fancy new programs, and hire fancy new faculty and researchers to stock all these labs and clinics and programs…again, higher prices, higher costs (due to increased salaries and more high-income workers) and more people fleeing to the townships in search of the needed housing stock. If Detroit continues to suffer from stagnant development and SE Michigan generally continues to suffer from unemployment, and one of the few bright spots is Washtenaw County, and if people are looking for a semi-urban medium-sized town experience, and if the townships (which we have no control over) continue to build thousands of new homes for these new residents to move into, and if new businesses (particularly of the national-chain-variety) sprout up around those developments to offer the residents places to work and eat and shop and play…well, that’s more competition for Ann Arbor, which means the city needs to change and adapt in order to continue thriving (it seems to me, anyway). The city simply cannot turn off that spigot. If only things were the way they used to be…well, they aren’t, so what are we going to do about it? How are we going to adapt? Choosing not to adapt just doesn’t seem like an option to me.

    Sorry about the mini-rant.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 14 '06 - 09:50PM    #
  98. Marc I didn’t make the rules for corporations. Are you saying that corporations don’t have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders? That it isn’t the primary legal requirement? That a University does have the same rules/expectations as a corporation? It is my understanding that decisions by publicly held corporations have to be made to enhance the value of said corporation (long or short term). So environmentally positive moves, charity etc. must be decisions taken and undergirded by a rationale which ultimately will lead to greater profitability. For example WalMart sends aid to Katrina victims. This must be justified legally on some economic ground (e.g., good PR leads to greater profitability)not as just a good thing to do. My post was not sent to absolve corporations of anything. I am interested in more corporate accountability. Tax abatements lead to the opposite.


       —Tim Colenback    Jul. 14 '06 - 09:50PM    #
  99. YUA, (don’t mean to chase you around tonight, but…) I think we have even more choices than those you touched on. We need to have goals (visions) and our choices need to have some chance of getting us there.

    Abatements may be a successful road to a particular destination. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other roads that could get us there. One question to ask is, how many parts fell off our vehicle on the way? A followup is, will we be able to get to our next destination without those missing parts? Not looking for alternative routes is short sighted. And those who are of the opinion that we’re limited to the route the state endorses might think a while about the current condition of that vehicle.

    On the other hand, abatements might get us there and leave us in reasonable condition to move on to our next goal if they’re designed to accommodate hybrids instead of Hummers, so to speak.

    Tim, the proposal I made to the Env. Comm. was to promote sustainable businesses. We want and need businesses in our community for many obvious reasons. But what type of businesses? In the broader context, we need to adapt, as YUA noted, especially with peak oil and climate change staring us in the face. If we’re going to have new businesses in our city, wouldn’t we want to both attract sustainable ones—to reward them and help them overcome the perversions of the “free market system”—and encourage those who aren’t already, to become sustainable?

    If you have ideas for how to accomplish that through some other means, please share.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 15 '06 - 04:16AM    #
  100. I said earlier that I’d post the resolution we passed. I can’t find a copy of the final, but this is a draft with at least one amendment included that I remember. The other one or two changes were minor.

    Resolution Recommending the Establishment of a City Property Tax Abatement Policy for Businesses Based on Sustainability

    Whereas the City of Ann Arbor lacks a policy for granting property tax abatements for businesses; and

    Whereas City Council has recently considered two requests for property tax abatements; and

    Whereas primarily economic criteria, such as the number of jobs created, have been cited as considerations for the granting of property tax abatements in the cases of those recent requests; and

    Whereas the declared powers and duties of the Environmental Commission include “To advise the City Council and City Administrator on all matters related to sustainable development, clean production, and environmental technologies”; and

    Whereas sustainability can be described as putting into practice a balance between considerations of equity, ecology, and economy (i.e., the three legs of sustainability); and

    Whereas each of these three considerations affects each other, a deficiency in any one likely having negative impacts on the others; and

    Whereas sustainable living is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity; and

    Whereas the presence of sustainable businesses in our community is highly desirable in that it will help our residents to adopt more sustainable practices in their own lives; and

    Whereas sustainable businesses may need incentives to establish themselves within our city and support for initial success;

    Therefore, be it resolved that the Environmental Commission recommends to the City Council that a policy firmly based on the three legs of sustainability be developed for property tax abatements for businesses in Ann Arbor; and

    Be it further resolved that the Environmental Commission recommends to the City Council that local residents and professionals who are well versed in the concept of sustainability be consulted in the development of this policy.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 15 '06 - 04:20AM    #
  101. Steve, if this is really in effect (am I misreading your post?).....where the heck do I sign to get back the insane taxes that Scott and I have been mailing in for the last five years?!

    And no, I’m not kidding!

    brewer@leopoldbros.com


       —todd    Jul. 15 '06 - 04:49AM    #
  102. What Steve posted was a policy that the Environmental Commission recommended to Council. Council never adopted it.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 15 '06 - 12:12PM    #
  103. No problem, Steve—it’s just that I see abatements being used wisely here. The only two I can recall from the last few years or so are those for Pfizer and Google. Since those companies are from two different industries, I see a diversifying local economy. They also encourage the sort of high-tech workforce that has a lot of future growth prospets, and which can attract young workers. This seems like a good idea to me. We don’t approve every request for an abatement; ProQuest didn’t get one, as I recall. I guess even though they could be used a lot worse, I don’t see how they could be used much better than they have been. Unless the argument is that we should start offering abatements to smaller companies—but then I think that there might be better solutions to offer those companies than abatements.


       —YoungUrban Amateur    Jul. 15 '06 - 02:10PM    #
  104. Ah, thanks dave. I saw the word “passed” in his post. I thought it was weird that I hadn’t heard of this.


       —todd    Jul. 15 '06 - 03:18PM    #
  105. todd, I had called you a while back to run it by you to see if you might add some support when it goes to council. Maybe you didn’t get the message. (You might want to ask Murph or Dale to deconstruct or remove your email address so it doesn’t get ‘crawled, resulting in loads of junk in your in box.)

    YUA, some examples of the sort of criteria I have in mind for evaluating businesses:

    Ecology—Do they use resources sustainably? Do they not use or produce environmental toxics, excessive greenhouse gases, or ozone-depleting chemicals?

    Equity—Do they pay all their workers and suppliers an ‘equitable’ amount relative to their CEO? Do they do business with other companies that also do?

    Economy—What you said.

    And in general, do they help other businesses or customers live or work more sustainably?

    Most people (including those who hold public office) have focused on the third “E”, largely at the exclusion of the other two, when evaluating the benefits of a business. Sustainability requires attention to all three and some semblence of balance between them.

    What kind of thing do you have in mind for small(er) businesses? Any thoughts on why it makes sense to treat them differently?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 15 '06 - 07:41PM    #
  106. On a different subject, I saw in Wednesday’s AANews story that among the list of possible downtown sites for Google was “land owned by the University of Michigan”, but the subsequent details only described non-U properties. If one really is available, that might be the best outcome for the city by putting new property on the tax rolls. Any ideas on the site they were referring to?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 15 '06 - 08:23PM    #
  107. Steve – I dig the EnvComm’s resolution.

    As for UM owned-land, well, I’d pessimistically expect somewhere in the wastes of Outer North Campus (like Property Dispo area) to be first on the U’s list. Or maybe out in the Plymouth/Dixboro UMHS mess.

    I’d much prefer to see them, say, on that strip of land down in Lower Town that the U currently plans, afaik, to build parking structures on. I kinda doubt that would happen, though.

    Additionally, I’m somewhat saddened by the general discussion that seems to go, “Google’s needs are 200,000sf of office space and one parking space per employee. There’s no place downtown to put 1000 parking spaces!” Well, durr. Downtown isn’t meant for shackling your soul to a car. One would hope that a 1,000 employee downtown office would enable employees to have a choice of transit and walking/biking instead of driving.

    The talk of 1 car/employee tells me either that they’re expecting to end up on the outskirts (and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, at that), or that they need a transportation planner, bad. (Actually, not “either”; “both”.)


       —Murph.    Jul. 16 '06 - 02:50AM    #
  108. Location for Googleplex

    I believe the two locations that are perfect for Google are the old YMCA location or the library parking lot (and possibly including the library). I do not believe the old Y has only 125,000 sf potential. I measured the lot, including the AATA site and the footprint measures very roughly to 160 feet by 250 feet. That means it has a potential footprint of 40,000 sf. If you build only a five story building, you would have 200,000 sf. My friend is the architect on the redevelopment project. He did not know off the top of his head but he said the property is very large. It takes up 1/2 the block. Add in an underground parking and we have a sight for Google.

    Library parking lot is also a very good candidate. If neither parcel is large enough, combine the two and add a skywalk to link the two separate buildings. You can turn the library parking lot into a four story campus like building with trees and lawn in front and the Y location into a taller building with both a parking structure and house the ATAA. Possibly retail on the first floor. 24 hour donut shop built right in the Googleplex.

    These locations are ideal for Google for the following reasons:

    1. Closest to campus compared to all the other potential locations. They have always said they wanted to be on or near campus. Four blocks away from campus.
    2. They would be practically at the center of downtown AA.
    3. The city wants them as close to the center of downtown as possible to help revitalize the downtown. If there is one factor most import to the revitalization of downtown, Google is it and the city council and the mayor are not going to pass it up. It would also justify their desire to build up.
    4. People working for Google would want to be working downtown near campus. The old Y and library parking lot location would be great for them to walk, bike, bus and Segway to work. Not to mention going out for lunch and donuts.
    5. AATA would be next door. They could take that to the train station, Briarwood, etc. Great to reduce the number of employees needing a car.
    With Flexcar (renting a car by the hour) coming to town and if the downtown rail is built, you could live without a car. Spend more money buying a condo downtown.

    I think what I described above is what the city and Google want. Therefore, if it is possible, it will get done. I hope!

    Until a better location is offered, I think these two locations have a great chance.

    Any thoughts?

    Michael Yi


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 16 '06 - 12:55PM    #
  109. The Old Y site’s redevelopment is to include substantial replacement affordable housing. Let’s make sure that doesn’t get lost in the glitz of Google. The site plan already submitted (approved?) for that site does include something in the range of 120,000 s.f. of office on the 2nd-4th floors, which might be where the stated “potential” Micheal mentions comes from.


       —Murph.    Jul. 16 '06 - 12:59PM    #
  110. Hi Murph,

    I did think of the low income housing and I thought that might be a deal breaker. I would think the city could find a smaller lot as desirable as the old Y location for them. Old Y location is a large parcel that might be desirable for a large development and not to limit its potential because we have to have low income housing on that location. I would think the city has a few more smaller parcels they could develop for low income housing.

    My friend who is the architect on the project has been telling me that the developer has been stalling for the past three to four months with the next faze of the project – going from schematic drawings to blue print drawings. Maybe the developer got a early heads up from the city or Google. If they did, they would have no desire to go ahead with the 14 story apartment and 9 story low housing project blue prints. They would be useless if the city, developer and
    Google wanted that location. Just a guess.

    Michael Yi


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 16 '06 - 01:11PM    #
  111. Michael, it’s interesting to hear that the William Street Station developer has been stalling for the past 3 or 4 months. I wondered what was (or was not) going on.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 16 '06 - 02:25PM    #
  112. “The talk of 1 car/employee”

    Murph, keep in mind that that’s a News reporter/editor(?)/publisher(?) talking, not a Google spokesperson. Your thinking is clearly valid and likely on target.

    Why would you prefer the Lower Town site to a U property? Do you think the benefits of boosting that area would outweigh the increase in property taxes? I suppose, now that I think about it, that the land value of the site might be small relative to the total development. Maybe someone could provide some rough numbers.

    Michael, what’s your thinking/info on why “Google would want to be working downtown near campus”? I understand the desire to be downtown, it’s the advantages of being “near campus” that I’m not clear on.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 16 '06 - 02:28PM    #
  113. Steve, just to clarify a misunderstanding(?) – when I state a preference for Lower Town to UM’s outer reaches, I’m not talking about Broadway Village. (remember, there’s plenty more to Lower Town than that site!) I’m referring to the UM-owned land in Lower Town, much of which is currently surface parking lots, but, I’ve heard, is planned for Med Center-supporting parking structures. (Most of the land between Maiden Lane and Wall Street, I believe?)

    If Google’s site were to be on any UM land, I think that’d be the best available place for it. As for land value, the number I’ve generally heard from local developers is to estimate that 10% of a development’s costs will be the land. So a $20-$50 million development would involve land costs on the order of $2-$5 million.

    Micheal, I don’t think any spot in town would be either as desirable or as logistically feasible for low-income housing as the old Y site. The proximity to things like, say, the transit center are pretty crucial to this plan. Building on a large site like this enables the developer to shift costs from the affordable housing to the planned office, retail, and market-rate housing components. The plans I’ve seen, though, do indeed include 120k or so of office space, as is. Assuming Google were to fix on that option, some redesign might be able to boost the office space a bit, while preserving the affordable housing component, or Google might opt for putting offices in two or three sites within walking distance of each other. (The horror! Multiple offices that people might occasionally need to walk between? What would happen to the poor restauranteurs unfortunate enough to be on the flight paths?)

    The intentions for the Old Y site to host a significant affordable housing component have existed for years; the City wouldn’t be involved in the redevelopment of it otherwise. I think a lot of people would consider removing the affordable housing to be a deal-breaker.


       —Murph.    Jul. 16 '06 - 03:18PM    #
  114. Yeah, probably they were talking about the U’s Lower Town property. Don’t forget, though, that the U. has other propery in and around the Buhr building, as well as another neighborhood [cough]. I’ll just let the astute readers think that one through.

    Steve, yes, I see what you’re getting at—maybe a set of written guidelines, rather than a policy that we’re obligated to follow to the letter, would be better. I think the goal should not be tying our hands when making an actual decision, but rather to sort of announce our goals to businesses—we don’t want to chase business away, but we do want to be inviting to those that we would prefer to have.

    I put smaller businesses in a different category just because there are so many of them. We can’t start examining every coffeeshop that wants to open up to see if they’re LEED-compliant. So, changing the tax structure is one good way to handle smaller businesses—in terms of both the state tax structure, as well as local zoning. IMO.


       —YoungUrban Amateur    Jul. 16 '06 - 04:41PM    #
  115. Yes, Murph, I didn’t understand that the U owns (undeveloped or otherwise available) land in LT.

    From a News article earlier this week: ”[Sonia Schmerl] said the only proposals for affordable housing are tied to profitable developments for developers.”

    This comment got me wondering about expanding the partnerships beyond the City and developers. I don’t know what sort of alternative proposals she has in mind (no website, no campaign flyers received yet at my home), but what about bringing in the business tenants as well?

    Might there be opportunities for live/work situations (as Kingsley Lane, the Village Green proposal for 1st & Washington, and probably others have acknowledged and planned to accommodate), on-site housing vouchers in place of transit or parking vouchers, and other creative arrangements for on-site housing for employees?

    What value is there to an employer (like Google, for example) to have a security guard, receptionist, maintenance or janitorial staff, or other employees live in the same building as their office? (And might that be a step in the direction of on-site child care and similar services?)

    Certainly, Google is in a far better position to consider this sort of contribution than is a small, local business, but maybe it’s all just relative. Maybe local businesses could pool resources for their association area.

    Anyone know if this sort of thing has been done elsewhere?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 16 '06 - 06:50PM    #
  116. “we don’t want to chase business away”

    YUA, no, of course not. Those businesses that don’t contribute to helping our community become more sustainable (either directly or indirectly) would still be free to take the risk of garnering sufficient business to succeed here on their own. You’re onto the goals, though: send a signal to businesses about what we want; help them understand how they might change to meet our criteria; encourage existing businesses to improve in ways that benefit the community.

    “We can’t start examining every coffeeshop that wants to open up to see if they’re LEED-compliant.”

    No, but if the building-owner was considering rehab’ing the structure to that level, we could support and encourage that (though I haven’t thought through the differences for developers compared to in-place businesses. We might be better off adopting building standards instead.) For small businesses the number of applicants would likely be limited, and the abatements small. Think (not-quite-so) micro-loans for a similar, successful mechanism.

    What sorts of local tax structure changes do you have in mind? (Note that I’m talking about local policy, not state-level.)


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 16 '06 - 07:09PM    #
  117. Dear Steve Bean.

    You asked:

    “Michael, what’s your thinking/info on why “Google would want to be working downtown near campus”? I understand the desire to be downtown, it’s the advantages of being “near campus” that I’m not clear on.”

    I believe Google mentioned they wanted to be near U of M campus. One comment from an U of M official based on Google’s desire to be on campus was that there was no building or lot large enough to house Google on campus.”

    Dear David Cahill,

    You said:

    “Michael, it’s interesting to hear that the William Street Station developer has been stalling for the past 3 or 4 months. I wondered what was (or was not) going on.”

    I can only guess that they had prior knowledge of Google coming to AA. Or, the developer was concerned about economic situation in Michigan. Both reasons would be valid for stalling or there could be several other reasons. However, because of timing, there is a good chance the developer got a lead one, two, three months ago. Obvious, I could totally wrong.

    The city wants it and Google wants it(I spelled it out in my earlier email why Google wants to be downtown). To me, those are the most import factors in determining where Google locates. I think we can all agree that both the city and Google wants to be downtown assuming we can work out the parking issue.

    My bet is 80% Google will be downtown and 20% outside of downtown. Antoher 50% (pretty good odds) they will be either at the old Y or library parking lot or both.

    Michael Yi


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 17 '06 - 01:07AM    #
  118. This is the email I sent Paula Gardener (reporter for Washtenaw Business Review) back in October 26, 2005.

    [Link deleted --ed.]

    Dear Paula,

    I am writing because I am curious why Google would need 40,000 sf of office space to scan and index library books? I would think they could do it with only 15,000 sf. Is it possible they are planning on using this space until they have a permanent 200,000 sf home downtown AA?

    Another clue that they might be planning for a larger facility is the recent job postings. It sounds like they are wanting more than one server room technician. A friend tells me that one person can handle a large server room by him or herself. Needing two or more server room technician means a very large operation is in store.

    Just speculating and curious. I wonder if you have looked into why Google would need 40,000 sf of office space for book scanning and their need for more than one server room technician?

    A friend of my neighbor, who works for Google told him last June that Google had something “really big planned for Ann Arbor.” I wonder if that means something larger than the book scanning project? It sure sounds like it.

    Let me know what you think. My gut feeling tells me they are coming to downtown AA.

    Sincerely,
    Michael

    As you can see, Google probably made up their mind to come to AA over a year ago. They might have spent the past several months just to do their due diligence. Just to make sure they did not miss anything. Consequently, other people might have been privy to this info. Possibly even some developers during the last few months. I was so confident Google was coming, I told Governor Granholm on two seperate occasions that they were coming. That was about five and seven months ago. I have no idea if she knew at time or not.

    Michael Yi


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 17 '06 - 03:34PM    #
  119. To be honest, I’m mostly thinking of rezoning—seems like one of the more important things that could be done.

    Micro-loans could work, though it makes me a little nervous—seems like more city government for not a lot of payoff. I could be wrong.


       —YoungUrban Amateur    Jul. 18 '06 - 12:29AM    #
  120. Am I the only one who groaned out loud and forgot about Google when I heard Ford was investing more than a billion dollars in hybrid fuel technology in the UK?


       —Dale    Jul. 18 '06 - 05:24AM    #
  121. Makes me feel like writing a snarky article about how many lighthouses there are in Warwickshire.

    (Reference to AAIO conversation, for those who don’t get it.)


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 18 '06 - 01:58PM    #
  122. The News reports that Ann Arbor Township has taken steps towards approving abatements to woo google , and Pittsfield Township is expected to do so. Scio Township “has also expressed an interest” in Google.

    Yes, haven’t we all.


       —Murph    Jul. 19 '06 - 04:26PM    #
  123. Oh, wait, I neglected the bit where real actual addresses are involved:

    Ann Arbor Twp, of course, is the Earhart Corporate Center, at 23 & Plymouth Road – 200,000sf, almost completed.

    Pittsfield is vacant land, at 5210, 5220 and 5240 S. State Road . The prize goes to Ed for first mention of Avis Farms


       —Murph    Jul. 19 '06 - 04:30PM    #
  124. I wager that Earhart Corporate Center will win. Prebuilt, modern looking, easy access to freeways, free parking. Good location for those who choose to live outside of Ann Arbor (Northville, Novi, Canton, Plymouth, Brighton, Ypsilanti).


       —jcp2    Jul. 19 '06 - 07:39PM    #
  125. Well, keep in mind that Google said they wanted to come here because of UM, not because of Free Parking. I’ll admit that downtown Ann Arbor lacks some of the things you mention (and I didn’t even realize the degree of “freeway access” until moving to Ypsi. It feels like I can get to DTW in less time now than it used to take to get to the freeway from our place in A2…), but those aren’t the only draws that matter.


       —Murph    Jul. 19 '06 - 09:22PM    #
  126. I got a Really Bad Feeling when I read about the Earhart Center. I was afraid that the lack of downtown parking would do us in.

    OTOH, the Earhart Center idea may just be a gambit by Google to see what counter-offer the City will make.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 20 '06 - 12:35PM    #
  127. David—I’m having a hard time reconciling your bad feeling (which I’m sure several of us share) with your position on downtown parking. You oppose parking garages as subsidies to developers and promote underground, on-site parking in developments, which Google would not be able to draw upon. Current parking in surface lots is not adequate if the Earhart Center is what they want. How do you think a company like Google that wants parking is going to locate downtown if parking resources are not available?


       —Dale    Jul. 20 '06 - 01:28PM    #
  128. Anywhere around Ann Arbor would still be in the UM sphere of influence (including Ypsilanti). They would still have access to UM grads. The only part that might need to be physically close to the UM campus would be the book digitizing project, and even then, only the scanning locations, really. The larger Adwords unit could exist virtually anywhere. As for spillover effects on local businesses, I hope it happens, but I get the feeling that the Google offices will be largely self-contained to enable developers to spend long periods of time at work and still remain productive. Maybe they’ll have a standing account at Domino’s.


       —jcp2    Jul. 20 '06 - 01:44PM    #
  129. “As for spillover effects on local businesses, I hope it happens, but I get the feeling that the Google offices will be largely self-contained to enable developers to spend long periods of time at work and still remain productive.”

    If this is indeed where Google locates….we’ve learned nothing from the Calthorpe exercises.

    At this location, Google won’t have 1/10th of the impact on local businesses that a downtown location would have….


       —todd    Jul. 20 '06 - 02:10PM    #
  130. Remeber that the Earhart center may only be a temporary location. Maybe.


       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 20 '06 - 02:27PM    #
  131. I did remember, thanks.

    Obviously, the conflicting reports about Google have me a bit confused though….

    What I’m getting at, though, is that I’m hoping that City Council and the Planning commission are proactive in putting together quality sites for Google. We have to actively find the best site, and say to Google “we’ve put together 3 sites that we think will work great, and here’s why”.

    Have the Calthorpe exercises changed the M.O. at the City? We’ll soon find out…..


       —todd    Jul. 20 '06 - 02:41PM    #
  132. I think the “self-contained” concept is more a reflection of Google company culture rather than a byproduct of physical location. Calthorpe may not be as relevant as you might think…


       —jcp2    Jul. 20 '06 - 03:03PM    #
  133. Well, that may be true jcp2, but they have to leave work eventually….the question at hand is where will they go, how far will they travel, where will they live, where will they shop, and will they all need cars to get to all of those places?

    Calthorpe is quite relevant.


       —todd    Jul. 20 '06 - 03:21PM    #
  134. As I understand it, this will be primarily a telemarketing and user support call center sort of operation, and not a hive of programmers. While I do know Google programmers who work 16 hour days, I think that our Google jobs here are much more likely to be 40-hour-workweek positions, due to the nature of the work / employees. While I expect Google will provide more on-site amenities than the typical office employer, I doubt that this will be the isolated and hermetically sealed workspace that jcp2 is referring to.


       —Murph    Jul. 20 '06 - 03:53PM    #
  135. I think the impact of Calthorpe might depend on the type of employee that ends up working at Google. For new transplants moving to SE Michigan from somewhere else (like myself a few years ago), it’s easy to start “fresh” and look at downtown first for a residence (if indeed that is where Google ends up) and move outwards as necessary. People already living in SE Michigan have a place to live, and presumably will have greater inertia before moving closer to work. Those with children will have additional issues. I’m all for increased density downtown; the only point that I’m trying to make is that the entrance of a relatively large employer with the desire for a single monolithic office site is something that Calthorpe does not seem to address well.


       —jcp2    Jul. 20 '06 - 04:04PM    #
  136. I was reading this article about Yahoo and Google today and started to think that I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a Google ad, either after a search or in Gmail. I think it’s because I don’t do searches to shop for things; I know where I want to go if I want to buy something online.

    Just for the sake of curiosity, how often would the rest of you here say you click on Google ads?


       —Dale    Jul. 20 '06 - 11:30PM    #
  137. Dale: “Just for the sake of curiosity, how often would the rest of you here say you click on Google ads?”

    Never. Not as a matter of principle, but just because Google has never ever ever served an ad that was remotely relevant to any search I was doing. Connected to the search in some transparent way, sure. But never ever ever relevant. And relevancy is the key claim that any contextual advertiser (not just Google) will make.

    But in the same way that there’s big money in spam, there’s big money in so-called contextual advertising. There were a few billion dollars worth of clicks last year for Google. Presumably, at least some of the advertisers who paid for those clicks feel like they got something out of it that causes them to continue. On a personal level, I just don’t get it.

    Frankly, I’m baffled that anyone click on an ad like this, which I was just served on a search (not even kidding):

    Buy Dale Now
    Find Dale on the
    eBay Express Official Site.
    www.eBayExpress.com

    I mean, we get Dale for free right here on AU. We don’t need to pay, much less engage in an auction.


       —HD    Jul. 21 '06 - 12:46AM    #
  138. I’m with HD. I never click on Google ads, or for that matter, any online ads, in the same way that I don’t pay attention to ads in magazines or papers. In fact, Google search is decent enough that if I want to look for something to buy, I just google it directly.


       —jcp2    Jul. 21 '06 - 01:05AM    #
  139. I’m baffled that anyone click on an ad like this

    No kidding. In fact, I’ll give you five bucks to take Dale off my hands.


       —Murph    Jul. 21 '06 - 01:58PM    #
  140. I wanted to say that I occasionally click on the Google ads when searching for info on new interests. But I decided to check my most recent example, tennis apparel, and I remembered that no, that doesn’t really happen much, as the regular search results tend to be way better than the paid ads.


       —Kelli    Jul. 21 '06 - 08:51PM    #
  141. I never click on any on-line ads.


       —David Cahill    Jul. 21 '06 - 10:19PM    #
  142. Amnesty International has a campaign which petitions Google as well as other companies.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 24 '06 - 03:55PM    #
  143. Yes, because Google can single-handedly convince the Chinese government than censorship is Wrong. Color me doubtful, Steve.

    I think the conclusion that most of my info-geek social group – even the most strident “information wants to be free” types – came to is that providing people with access to 99% of the information on the web is better than making an all-or-nothing stand which will inevitably come up “nothing”. Enabling access to ideas of freedom in a round-about way is a way of adding social/moral value, even if it’s done within the constraints of the Chinese government censors.


       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '06 - 01:42AM    #
  144. To compare regular Google versus China Google, try this

    If you test things like “parking in ann arbor” (as I interpret the dots, anyway) you’ll see that in China, you don’t get delivered results like this

    Why the exhortation to remember Yellow Level Four gets filtered, who knows. Perhaps an obscure insult to one of their rivers?


       —HD    Jul. 25 '06 - 02:30AM    #
  145. Pondering the dots and lines a bit longer suggests that the Chinese are actually being treated to the Yellow Level Four sign in the top 100 results, but we are being deprived of it. Hmmm.


       —HD    Jul. 25 '06 - 02:40AM    #
  146. That’s a straw man, Murph. No one expects Google to single handedly do anything.

    And concluding that the alternative will result in “nothing” isn’t rational, it’s a learned response (which we are taught oh so well by oh so many), which you’re trying to rationalize.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 25 '06 - 05:06PM    #
  147. Murph wrote: ”... providing people with access to 99% of the information on the web is better than making an all-or-nothing stand which will inevitably come up ‘nothing’. ”

    It’s a misconception that without Google’s decision to offer google.cn (‘censored’ but available to Chinese users) that Chinese users would have no access or poor access to internet search. There are domestic internet search services in China, businesses that play by the Chinese government’s rules. While Google would like to portray its decision to offer google.cn as a philanthropic desire to serve Chinese users’ needs for information, it’s transparently a business decision driven by a desire to compete in the Chinese market under the same rules as domestic Chinese search companies. This isn’t an unreasonable position for Google to take as a business. I do think it’s a bit disingenuous of Google to try to portray their 99%-is-better-than-nothing decision as driven by humanitarian goals of providing Chinese users with at least SOME information about freedom, democracy, and building heights in Ann Arbor. That much they can find already and would continue to find with or without google.cn. Of course, it’s possible to quibble about the quality of Chinese domestic search results, in terms of rankings or server-response time, versus google.cn

    WRT the ‘all-or-nothing’ stand, it DOES result in ‘nothing’ from the point of view of Google’s share of the Chinese search market.

    It’s an interesting question, though, whether Google having a share of the Chinese search market—based on its participation in censorsip—results in ‘something’ or ‘nothing’ WRT transformation of Chinese government attitudes towards censorship, democracy, etc.


       —HD    Jul. 25 '06 - 06:33PM    #
  148. I think we can assume with some confidence that Google’s presence will improve access to information markedly over domestic search engines (is there any debate, say, within the US?). In addition, I’d wager Google’s foot in the door there will lead to other information services, just as it has here. You don’t all use Google just for the search engine, do you?


       —Dale    Jul. 25 '06 - 07:50PM    #
  149. I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, Dale, but the issue in China (as least as far as AI is concerned) isn’t the quality of information services, it’s the limitations on freedom to access certain information. If all service providers and all the services they provide meet the Chinese government restrictions, the number of providers and services is irrelevant—people would still be receiving information censored by their government and the providers who cooperate in that policy.

    I’m wondering what Google’s next step is. Will they move into a market in another similarly repressive country? Would they cooperate if our government were to impose “national security” restrictions on information? The slippery slope seems evident. Or will they begin to push against the restrictions in China? That’s what AI is asking of them.

    And here we are, thrilled that Google is coming here, regardless of their business practices. Kinda makes me wonder what’s taking Stephen Rapundalo so long putting together the resolution for council to adopt a policy for granting tax abatements.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 25 '06 - 08:23PM    #
  150. But Steve, what search engine besides Google should we be deigning to permit within our city limits? (Actually not even there, so far…) This whole “Only if you’re sinless” attitude just seems self-defeating to me. Especially if we’re going to start judging Google based on how we think they would react under a hypothetical situation. You yourself say it: they’re a business. Better than many, but by no means perfect.

    I agree that social justice could, and should, be a factor in considering which businesses to support. I just don’t think it can be a veto (unless it’s something clearly and deliberately immoral, of course).

    For that matter, it seems to me that Google might get more leverage out of being a player in the China market than it would if they stayed out until China agreed to their demands. But I admit that’s just a guess of mine.


       —YoungUrban Amateur    Jul. 26 '06 - 01:10AM    #
  151. It wouldn’t be a veto, YUA, it would just be saying that we won’t use our tax dollars to support the company the way we would those that act in the long-term and broad interests of our community. They could still come here and be a part of the community, provide jobs, enjoy what our city has to offer, etc.

    “You yourself say it: they’re a business.”

    That sounds like more of the learned response we’re conditioned to give. Yes they’re a business. So what? They’re a corporation with a charter granted to them by the citizens of this country (actually, a particular state, IIRC), which citizens have the right to revoke at any time. Perfection wouldn’t be fair to expect, no. But what’s so unreasonable about something like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or even the UN Norms for Business?

    What would be “self-defeating” would be to pay the next Enron to move into town. Is that what’s happening? I don’t know, do you?


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 26 '06 - 01:46AM    #
  152. So, in the name of social justice and to take a stand against subsidizing corporations, the source of many of our incomes, A2 would turn down a google? Something to think about. I am sure the out of work or under employed folks in Ann Arbor and Michigan would have an opinion.


       —Dustin    Jul. 26 '06 - 04:08AM    #
  153. “to take a stand against subsidizing corporations”

    Please don’t misinterpret what I’ve proposed. In fact, looking back to #86, I see that I’ve already explained (to you, Dustin) that I’m not proposing to eliminate tax abatements.

    I also note that YUA and I already covered the ‘veto’ issue back around #116.

    (Are these just more conditioned responses, or aren’t you folks paying attention? Already applied for a job with Google? Or what?)

    Why is it that people in Michigan are out of work or underemployed? Maybe the answer will help us in thinking about the value of a policy in this area.


       —Steve Bean    Jul. 26 '06 - 01:43PM    #
  154. Censorship is leaky. Internet filters are leaky. The longer the levee – the more points of contact with “offensive” information that have to be filtered - the more likely that a hole’s going to pop up somewhere.

    “The net interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it.” – John Gilmore, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    As Dale notes, Google is the most comprehensive set of end-user free electronic information tools around. Bringing Google’s tools into the Chinese market creates a lot of new connections for information to slip through. Google is hardly infallible – their entry into the Chinese market under PRC’s terms makes access to data more porous.


       —Murph    Jul. 26 '06 - 05:25PM    #
  155. “”The net interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it.” – John Gilmore, Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

    Foucault In Cyberspace: Surveillance, Sovereignty, and Hard-Wired Censors. , by James Boyle: “I argue that the conceptual structure and jurisprudential assumptions of digital libertarianism lead its practitioners to ignore the ways in which the state can often use privatized enforcement and state-backed technologies to evade some of the supposed practical (and constitutional) restraints on the exercise of legal power over the Net.”


       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 26 '06 - 06:05PM    #
  156. Google coming to A2, just great. Another corporate giant coming to town, making millions and dishing back little. Developing cities are becoming tax free zones, except for the residents who live there. Sure they spit out some jobs, but it’s those people who have to pick up the city tab. Meanwhile, the company execs roll in the dough. The college gives nothing back, the corporations give nothing back, its no wonder my taxes are so high. The city ignores the residents and kisses up to everyone else. A2 is overrated.


       —JT    Jul. 27 '06 - 03:09AM    #
  157. JT, would you rather they settled somewhere else? Out in a Greenfield perhaps? And why would your taxes go up? Even with a tax abatement, they will still pay loads of taxes, more than half of what they would have paid. Tax money that would not have been there had they not come to town and if they don’t get the abatement, they don’t come to town… Pfizer pays something like $8 million, probably a million or two more than before they got a tax break. Tell it to out of work folks in this area, we all need jobs.


       —Dustin    Jul. 31 '06 - 02:42AM    #
  158. Google opens its doors today at 110 N. Main, according to the Free Press.

    They’re downtown now. How do we keep them there?


       —Dale    Sep. 18 '06 - 10:49AM    #
  159. That’s SOUTH Main.


       —Dale    Sep. 18 '06 - 10:50AM    #
  160. The building is the old Maier/Scheier(sp?) office store, with Vinology on the first floor. How do we keep them there? Good question – the problem is that office buildings on the outskirts have lower rent and free parking. BUT, downtown has many more advantages, and at least you can step out and get a bite to eat or do some shopping without getting into your car. Downtown also offers the GoPass, and I know every governmental entity will be working to make them happy so that the future big building will be in the downtown and not out at Plymouth and 23 or in some other township. Hey – if you meet a Google employee, be nice! :-)


       —Leah    Sep. 18 '06 - 01:08PM    #
  161. How do we keep them there?

    Free wine?


       —Juliew    Sep. 18 '06 - 08:20PM    #
  162. Works for me!


       —Leah    Sep. 19 '06 - 12:07AM    #
  163. I can’t imagine Google staying there for very long, if they plan to grow as rapidly as they say they will. You simply can’t cram 1000 people into that space.


       —Edward Vielmetti    Sep. 19 '06 - 02:17AM    #
  164. It said in the newspaper that this is the first office, for the initials hires, and is considered temporary. They will indeed grow, and the objective is to try to keep them in the downtown.


       —Leah    Sep. 19 '06 - 11:17AM    #
  165. The good news is that they put their initial office downtown. If these folks like downtown’s ambiance (which they should), then hopefully they will find enough adequate space nearby.


       —David Cahill    Sep. 19 '06 - 03:10PM    #