The Community Impact of Google’s Dalles Data Center, Voldemort Industries "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named"
Oregonlive.com has an article about Google’s impact to the Dalles community and economy. The article and video starts discussing the towns history of depending on cheap power for an aluminum plant.
Columbia Gorge bucks economic winds, especially in The Dalles
by Laura Oppenheimer, The Oregonian
Saturday June 06, 2009, 12:00 PM
A New Outlook for The Dalles
Galen May rode his bicycle along the Columbia River as a boy, watching workers build the aluminum plant that would become the economic heart of The Dalles.
"Little did I know, 50 years later, I'd be the one tearing it down," says May, who spent his career here, mostly as environmental manager.
During boom times, this expanse of long, skinny buildings -- almost a million square feet -- hummed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, run by 500 workers who bought houses, raised children, shopped at the local hardware store and ate at local restaurants.
During bad times, jobs and hope burned like molten aluminum. Home values plummeted, and Wasco County posted some of Oregon's worst unemployment rates.
Sorry can’t embed the video. Nothing spectacular as it just shows a few google employees being interviewed in the cafeteria.
What is more interesting is the reference to reaction before google arrived.
When Google discovered The Dalles several years ago -- drawn by reliable power and fiber connectivity, available land and a cooperative community -- people were quick to paint the company as savior or villain.
There was talk of a high-tech boom, and real estate values soared 50 percent in a year as speculators scooped up houses. During construction, the data center created jobs and filled hotels. But many natives bristled at Google's secretive approach: The project was known by a code name, and critics feared the company would simply import workers from its California headquarters.
The reality is more nuanced.
Home prices inched back down, and you won't find Facebook or Microsoft in The Dalles. Still, Google has become a powerful symbol of transformation.
And, a Harry Potter reference.
As you pull up to the riverfront campus, you'll spot a Voldemort Industries sign, a self-effacing reference to the Harry Potter character known as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
Google officials say they learned from the backlash, and make a point to be transparent when they open data centers. They have also gotten involved in The Dalles. Workers volunteer at cleanups or Habitat for Humanity; a garden at the edge of the property is public; grants go to community groups. Last fall, Google hosted an open house at its cafeteria and visitor center.
This is where employees go for a massage (they get a one-hour credit on their birthdays) and daily free lunch, which might include vegan bean loaf or salmon with braised leeks, tomato and saffron. They can play foosball or raid the patio for dodge ball or bocce ball gear.
About 200 people work on campus, including contracted security, catering and housekeeping. Those inside the data center can't give details, except to say they're the mechanics who keep the Internet running.
Camden Lindsay, a 30-year-old project manager, oversaw technology at a cherry operation before he joined Google.
"The experience I got working for Orchard View Farms was really the experience I needed to get this job," he says.
Blair Ellsworth, who grew up in Hood River, worked a cherry harvest and a pear harvest after graduating from college in 2005. Meanwhile, he hunted for more permanent employment.
"I was expecting to get a job in Portland. That's where I was focusing most of my effort," Ellsworth says -- until he heard about Google.
Hiring locally is a priority, says data center manager Dave Karlson, former technology director for the local education service district.
Managers persuaded Google's human resources department to advertise in the town newspaper, not just the company Web site. Karlson knew they'd reach people with a built-in advantage.
"We can teach you the technical stuff," he says. "We can't teach you to live in the gorge."
As I’ve said in an interview with Google’s Urs Hoelzle, hiding creates negative effects. Data Centers are just starting to be transparent.
Google Uncloaks PUE Data Center Details
Why is it important for Google and others to uncloak? Star Trek's Gene Roddenberry provides a view on human nature.Gene Roddenberry indicated in various interviews that "our heroes don't sneak around", indicating that the Federation made a conscious decision to not develop cloaking technology.