Google's relationship with Mountain View

Ford / Detroit
Google / Mountain View, CA
Harvard / Allston

Three huge corporations with immense power to control the destiny of their surrounding communities. This story in today's Times raises questions relevant in Allston and Mountain View about corporations turning inward & outward, community engagement, and creating a community feeling beyond the office and campus walls.

Google and Mountain View Recast Company-Town Model -

“The main reason Ford put money into the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is to make it plausible to recruit executives to Detroit,” Professor Davis said. “It was a human-resources move as much as it was philanthropic.”

But the technology companies that grew amid the striking scenery and balmy weather of the Bay Area have not felt the same imperative. As they grew, they turned inward, putting their resources into employee perks like stock options and free lunches.

“Generally speaking, the high-tech companies in Silicon Valley are not as engaged in contributing to their local communities,” said Larry Stone, the Santa Clara County tax assessor.

The most controversial Google plan so far is its possible expansion into the North Bayshore area, including residential towers of up to five stories. These would increase population density, and possibly traffic, in an area that has little of either. The proposal’s viability, in turn, rests in part on the long-term planning decisions now before the City Council.

Sean Safford, a professor who studies organizations and markets at the University of Chicago, noted that Google was replicating traditional company-town practices by placing housing for its employees near its headquarters.

“It will be so interesting to see how much of their human resources strategy is about creating a community feeling that goes beyond the offices,” Mr. Safford said. “Sometimes when you’re competing for workers and prominence, there’s a need to stick your chest out and say, ‘We’re the big dogs in town.’ ”

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