Talk about search engine optimization!
Google’s announced $600 million data center in Jackson County may not bring the investment and jobs of an automaker or airplane assembly plant, but economic developers believe the image boost for Alabama’s technology sector could be just as significant.
“Google is such a well-known world brand, having the data center in Alabama enhances our state’s brand,” said Bill Sisson, president and CEO of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “Much like Mercedes and Airbus, having a global project like this helps showcase our diversified economy and proves that Alabama is an excellent place to do business.”
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said Google is a company whose very name lends validity.
“There are few brands more powerful than Google’s, and the company’s investment in Jackson County sends the message that Alabama is primed for high-tech projects,” Canfield said. “Alabama has assembled a formidable auto industry with four top global brands, and we’re positioned to become a hub of aircraft production with Airbus. We want to raise Alabama’s profile in the tech sector, and we think Google’s stamp of approval will help us accomplish that.”
That’s not to say the tech sector is not already growing in the state.
Greg Knighton, vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said Google may be the biggest name yet, but it is not the only big name doing business in the state.
“Many people are not aware that Alabama has a robust and rapidly growing information technology industry. There are literally hundreds of IT companies here – some homegrown, some multinational,” Knighton said.
Google’s presence raises the game for the industry in Alabama, Knighton said.
“The Google announcement is just tremendous. Its brand recognition and corporate reputation bring attention to the fact that Alabama is a great place for knowledge-based companies across many sectors,” he said. “We could not be happier that Google has chosen Alabama for such significant investment.”
Google announced June 24 it will build a $600 million data center on 350 acres in a former coal-fired Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Bridgeport, creating up to 100 jobs.
Dus Rogers, president and CEO of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority, said Google is a global presence in the state, but the major impact is going to be felt locally.
“Having an international company that has the name recognition of Google is obviously big for Jackson County,” Rogers said. “Our focus now is on working with them to be successful here so they can grow.”
The data center is being built in northeast Alabama, but the entire state will herald Google’s presence.
“This is great news for all of Alabama,” said Brian Hilson, CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “An internationally recognized brand name company like Google selecting Alabama for a major investment validates our state’s many advantages, including our new incentives that are specifically designed to attract data centers.”
Google officials said the state’s incentives that went into effect June 1 targeting industries like data centers were a factor in their decision.
Gov. Robert Bentley was a proponent of the new incentives, which were a radical change from the way Alabama did business in the past. Bentley was on hand to welcome Google at Wednesday’s press conference.
“Google is one of the world’s most innovative companies that just about every Alabamian interacts with daily,” Bentley said. “Google’s decision to expand its data center network to Alabama is the start of a long-lasting state partnership that will provide a significant boost to our state’s high-tech sector, provide good jobs for our citizens and position the state for additional growth in this important industry. I appreciate Google’s significant investment in Alabama, and I am pleased to welcome them to Sweet Home Alabama.”
Armed with new incentives and with information technology, one of the state’s targeted industry sectors, officials believe Google’s presence could lure more industry giants the way Mercedes helped bring Honda, Hyundai and Toyota to the state.
“Google’s decision is so timely,” Knighton said. “EDPA and our allies are working to support and grow the IT industry and other knowledge-based sectors to further diversify Alabama’s economy. We know that Google will only help to propel Alabama’s IT growth and solidify the state as a key location for knowledge-based companies.”