Google's growth nothing but good for Caldwell County

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 02:17 AM

Google’s announcement that it will spend $600 million to expand its data center in Lenoir – on top of the initial $600 million announced in 2007 – prompted more songs of praise at Friday’s press conference than you’ll hear anywhere outside of a revival tent.

Journalists generally are awful singers, but we agree: This is nothing but good news.

But the journalists and dignitaries had barely left Google’s property before the first contrary voice was heard.

There are some who grumble that too many of Google’s jobs have gone to folks who didn’t already live in Caldwell County. The most sneering way we’ve heard this put is, “What good has Google done for us?”

Our answer: Plenty.

Simply put, you can’t sink $1.2 billion into bricks, mortar, fiber, steel and silicon, plus millions more a year into salaries, without affecting the region’s overall economy. Even if 100 percent of Google’s 150-plus employees came from somewhere else, unless they are all teleporting here from California they are spending money and paying taxes here. And, for the record, Google’s Enoch Moeller says the majority of people it has hired were local, people such as Paul Bowman, a Caldwell native and former Broyhill Furniture employee who went back to school to get new technology skills.

Their spending has ripple effects.

Just having Google here has other ripple effects. The marquee name attracts attention and makes other businesses give the area a more serious look.

Looking at the longer-term picture, the presence of Google – or Exela Pharma Sciences, or Greer Laboratories, or any of the local companies requiring more training and higher education – provides today’s Caldwell County students with options they never would have had. The local unemployment rate was better 20 or 30 years ago, but many local students who wanted to go to college and might have liked to come home after graduation had limited options allowing that.

And as T.J. Rohr, Lenoir’s mayor pro tem, pointed out Friday, when students are exposed to the things that Google’s work with the schools exposes then to, it opens their eyes. If you are the child and grandchild of factory workers, and everyone you know also is one, you have trouble thinking of other possibilities for yourself. But the more options you see, the broader the horizons of your ambition. You choose a job because it appeals to you, not because it’s the only thing around.

Any local economy requires a range of employers and a range of possibilities to remain healthy. The broader the job base, the stronger the community will be in the long run against downturns

Google’s expansion is another in the growing journey of steps the local economy has taken toward gaining that diversity and long-term strength. It is great news for Caldwell County.