Eight Years Later: How Google Continues to Change Pittsburgh

With more than 70% of web users finding websites through search engines, Google has already played a huge role in shaping how we use the internet. But how is it shaping one of the cities it currently calls home?

It’s been eight years since the search engine giant added Google Pittsburgh to its 70-office operation. The office, located in a former Nabisco Factory in Larimer, now hosts about 350 Google employees, a number which is expected to grow to 500 or more.

Locals call them Googlers, well-paid young hipster types with prestigious degrees who bike to work, hide their ID badges in public and evade questions about exactly what they do at their company. Many are settling in Pittsburgh, but others are moving out to the suburbs.

But Pittsburgh had a reputation as a high-tech city long before Google showed up. Carnegie Mellon University turns out some of the best software engineers and computer scientists in the world.

The company’s positioning within two miles of CMU and Pitt University is no coincidence; it’s a strategic advantage.

The relationship between CMU and Google is symbiotic. Google sends staffers over to sit in on thesis committees and work with students, and in return, the company gets access to new projects and talent.

“Andrew Carnegie decided to locate in Pittsburgh because he had rivers and rails to get the materials to build his products and get them to market,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “This new economy is not under that same structure. Google is not looking to locate next to a highway. They don’t need an infrastructure of raw materials. CMU and Pitt are the factories churning out that talent.”

The area has also seen commercial growth since Google moved in. High-end boutiques, a Target, and a Home Depot have opened in the area since Google moved in. Entrepreneurs from Google and other technological companies are creating their own start-ups in the area, leading to even more commercial expansion. Co-working spaces are emerging, which also encourage start-ups and business ventures, around the city.

Though experts are hesitant to attribute all of this growth to Google, there’s certainly a relational effect. In fact, the region attracted $250 million in venture capital in the first nine months of 2014 alone, a number which is set to beat local records. Real estate is booming, as are local entertainment options like bars and cafes.

“Google definitely ups the coolness factor,” 25-year-old Ryan Teeder told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I live in White Oak, but when I come here, I feel like I’m in Brooklyn or some other really cool place where all the action is.”

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