back to article Virgin Mary appears in Google's Iowa data center

Who needs religion in middle America when you have Google? Google executive Ken Patchett recently visited Council Bluffs, Iowa and received a hero's welcome. Patchett leads Google's effort to build a $600m data center in corn country, and the locals couldn't be happier to have him around - at least according to propaganda …


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  1. John A Blackley

    So nothing Google does is worth anything? Is that right?

    Let me get this straight: During the building of the datacenter, Google will employ 'hundreds' of building-trade workers. After the datacenter's operational, it will provide 'three dozen' IT jobs (that didn't exist before) for, let me see, how many years? In a podunk little town that currently employs how many IT workers?

    Why is this a reason for an extended sneer at Google?

    Oh, you've got a book to peddle! Now I get it.

  2. Tyler
    Dead Vulture


    Having grown up in Iowa, I can tell you why The Register got so excited by Google doing anything there: young people are leaving the state in droves (myself included). The problem is getting so bad that the state is considering exempting people under 30 from state taxes, and tax breaks for companies that create new jobs in Iowa.

    "Iowa suffered the fourth-greatest numerical loss in the nation in terms of emigrating college graduates in 1995 and 2000, according to a report by Iowa State University. Percentage-wise, only one state lost more college graduates between the ages of 25 and 39 than Iowa - North Dakota." - from

    So, 1. the fact that anybody is bringing jobs to Iowa is newsworthy in that state, and 2. the fact that it's a high-tech company is also newsworthy. Due to derogatory news-reporting (such as that done by yourself), Iowa is stereotyped as 'corn country,' despite having one of the foremost research universities in the U.S. (IA State in Ames).

    Say lay off the corn already. If you can't say something nice, go write about Washington D.C.

  3. James Dean Kirby

    Apparently you haven't been to western Iowa lately...

    Not to burst your rant, but 13 tech jobs in Western Iowa *is* a big deal. (anything that's not a $9/hr call center job is a big deal around here, though).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Define "podunk"...

    Council Bluffs isn't a big city - it's about 60,000 people (quick Wiki check there, so take it for what it is) - but it's not really a podunk town. Especially when you consider that the drive to Omaha, Nebraska (pop. ~390,000, same source) involves driving across a bridge. So 30-odd jobs isn't going to make a meaningful economic difference in the long-term.

    However, it's a serious morale boost and, if they leverage it right, could be good PR for convincing other companies to follow suit. (See, we've already got the infrastructure. If it's good enough for Google...)

    People with college degrees have been leaving the midwest in droves for decades, and it's only getting worse. The general opinion is that every little bit helps.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Why all the bias?

    Virtually every article I've read on El Reg in the past few months with anything to say about Google appears to always be protraying a biased and negative opinion of the firm.

    Microsoft, Sun, Apple and other big-name firms consistantly get bashing too, I agree, but only apple seems to get anywhere near the bad press from ElReg that google does.

    Why do I suspect someone either has a personal vendetta or is getting paid for all the consistantly biased articles?

  6. b shubin
    Paris Hilton

    Bleeding obvious

    from the previous comments, it is clear that, outside the bubble universe of California, some other places in the US (especially those away from the coasts) have not had it nearly so good in the last decade.

    here in SE Michigan, nearby Detroit would be ecstatic about a new datacenter. a large construction project like that would make many an unemployed worker salivate. the ripple effects of an expenditure of that magnitude in the local economy, will likely last longer than the project itself. the additional utility demands and recurring maintenance expenses will continue to contribute locally, long after the construction is completed.

    even here in Ann Arbor (UMich), people were excited about the Google advertising facility that opened recently (not that many jobs there, actually).

    California was, until very recently, the world's 7th largest economy (may still be), so the assumptions valid there are a special case, and the context in Iowa, or Michigan, is starkly different. perhaps that's why the big players are going to obscure places - because they get more cooperation there. Microsoft may be going to Siberia, which makes Iowa a rather conventional choice, actually.

    the PH icon is for the distorted, bubble-universe perspective.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    I dunno about you, but I'm with Blackly

    Is anyone else tired of this over-hyped book? It's damn near as bad as Dr. Phil: Read my book! listen to my tapes! Watch my videos! Again in HD! Again on Blu-Ray!

  8. Lexx Greatrex
    Dead Vulture

    30 Jobs now...

    Google is a rapidly growing business diversifying into many arenas. What might be 30 jobs now for Iowa may turn into hundreds or thousands in future.

    It makes sense for corporations to escape the big cities for so many obvious reasons it borders on a self-evident truth.

    Over the last century industry has deserted the smaller towns. Many places outside urban America feel like they have been gutted and left to die. I am glad corporations are making a move in this direction. It not only shows financial responsibility but insight and social conscience.

    Perhaps journalists looking to evoke a corporate pariah to bolster circulation could take heed of these values? I somehow doubt it.

  9. Christopher Rogers

    that damn book

    I'm with the others on this one. Ok Google may not be bringers of life and may have a large amount of smoke blown up their ass, but in a country where corporation is king, where jobs are thin on the ground and money has all but evaporated for many people, any news of jobs etc is wonderful. In pimping his fuckin new book (which i desire to read less and less the more its pimped at me) Ashlee Vance has basically used the Walmart effect to shit upon the efforts of Google. Google is a business and is in it for the money, lets not beat about the bush on that one. But lets face it, instead of bogging themselves down in some non-profit activities like cleaning lakes and sitting on chambers of commerce, they could have just bought a site, built a data centre and brought in their own experienced people.

    No need to piss on the fire Vance.

  10. Jon

    Better than nothing

    Surely a few jobs is better than none. In any case, it creates a piece of industry around which other industries can grow (logistics, cleaners etc)


  11. steve
    Thumb Down

    "Google is teh D3V1L!"

    Come on guys, are you trying to get a job for The Sun or something? No, google isn't the new saviour, but they will bring some help to an ailing community. Stop pushing books, start writing articles.

  12. Leon Markham
    Dead Vulture

    May be missing the point but

    In a small community, an employer which takes on 30, reasonably well-paid people can be big news. Each of those jobs will have roll-on effects in terms of additional jobs created and furthermore a small town can attract other employers "hey - we're good enough for google" - AND local inhabitants can feel the warm glow of pride in their hearts.

    Can we have a google icon for posts too?

  13. Iain Cartledge

    The way I see it

    either Google is actually trying to be nice and help out a community, or, more cynically and more likely, they are trying to get people to start thinking of that Do No Evil slogan again and using this as not only an opportunity to get a new datacentre, but also to make it look like they really care. Whichever it is, it doesn't really matter, because it clearly will impact the community. Whatever their motives, attacking Google skirts the fact that it's quite a good idea.

    For once, I'm fully agreed with Blackly, stop blagging your book, I was quite interested in the basis of the article, but the content put me right off.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >We'd bring you more examples

    "... of Google's coming generosity if only the reporter had bothered to dig up anything else substantial."

    Erm, you're ripping off someone elses news story and then criticising the quality of it?

    Why don't _you_ do the research, you're a reporter as well, aren't you?

    There's been a stack of these deconstructions of the work of reporters for other papers, often it's "No comment" Orlowski so they don't get the response they deserve. About time you did your own reporting and stop worrying about what's written in other papers.

  15. conan

    I agree with the author

    You've all made reasonable points here, but from reading the article I didn't get the impression that the author was having a go at Google. They just seem to be criticising the prevalent view that Google are nice people, a view which I encounter every day. Because their products are generally quite good, people have a good impression of them as a business, whereas a company like Microsoft whose products are perceived to be generally quite poor are thought of as being nasty people. Like the author says, Google sell advertising - not an industry I consider to be particularly beneficial to humanity. I fully agree with criticism of the positive spin that's put on them expanding their core business; they're not doing it to be nice people, they're doing it to make more money from advertising, and I'm sure they couldn't give a flying monkey's about the residents of Iowa. I advise caution when defending companies like these.

  16. Swee' Pea

    Imported Employers are not Enough

    My local town has been giving tax-breaks to big-box stores and warehousing/distribution centers to bring jobs and revenues to the area for the last 20 years or so. The local gov drools over the jobs and "prestige" and rests on its laurels after landing the big fish. It looks good because these businesses require a lot of labor but the jobs are low-skill.

    When the tax deal expires the business moves leaving vacant buildings. As far as I can tell it hasn't really stimulated any significant local business development and certainly no tech jobs.

    While the construction is a boon and 30 jobs for a rural community is positive, there's too little information to know what incentives were offered to Google or how the community plans to leverage this opportunity. If the community doesn't do something, they'll have 25 minimum-wage operator jobs and 5 management jobs. If that happens, it's not Google's fault.

  17. Matthew

    Build a bridge

    Get over it.

    You don't have to read the subscript about Ashlee Vance's book. The book in question is Nick Carr's.

    Get over yourselves, Vance's book has nothing to do with the article, but is contained in the footnote.

  18. Steve

    Re: I agree with the author

    Same here.

    The ripping that the likes of Apple and Google get in these pages is proportional to the amount of PR bullshit these companies use to try and pass themselves of as a fluffy pink altruistic hug-fest even though their CEOs are **mandated by law** to place profit above all other concerns. The only reason they'll clean a lake is if they think it will be more effective PR than doing a mailshot telling everyone how great they are.

    That's fine, as long as people are aware of it and use Google's desire for a good public image to coerce them to do the things that the community itself wants.

    It's not bias, just a proportional response.

  19. Joe

    I'm with Steve and Matthew

    I'd punt a book here if I had one to sell!

    And capitalism is about profit - any company doing anything nice is always about profit, not doing the nice thing.

    The "Computers For Schools" scheme at Tesco? It's not about being nice, it's about getting you to keep shopping at Tesco instead of another shop.

    Like Google cleaning the lake, it's a silver lining, but the sole motivation is more profit, not altruism.

    I'm not saying that nothing good can come from capitalist enterprise, but that we should see it for what it is.

  20. Dalen

    Next set of icons for El Reg

    The Sergey and Larry angel/devil pair.

  21. Calida Allyce

    Google is good for economies of the present.

    Even if it only takes thirty workers to plug the boards in to the servers the place itself will need a lot of maintainence. Any way you look at it this kind of infrastructure is a great boost to a sleepy rural community. In northern Colorado the no growthers like to keep our economy crawling by chasing all infrastructure dependant economic development downstream.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Re: Google is good for economies of the present.

    You've forgotten about remote admin. The people _will_ be flown up from Atlanta, as necessary for depot repairs. No need for onsite techs here; they'd be too expensive. (Yet, there will be people onsite to tend the coolers.)

    I chose the iHate.SJ icon for the anti-"reality distortion field". Google's a HUGE business now, not just some dorm room experiment from 10 years ago.

  23. Jeff

    Re: So nothing Google does is worth anything? Is that right?

    Hear here. The construction industry by definition lives on temporary and medium-term jobs, and datacentres of that magnitude don't pop up overnight. But let's not let that fact preclude a good old-fashioned Googlebashing.

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