Google CEO 'long-term bullish' on city as other tech firms retreat

High-profile tech outfits have recently announced layoffs and scaled back on office expansions, but Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told Crain’s he remains “long-term bullish” on the company’s growth and real estate footprint in New York City.

Amazon and Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, have halted city expansion plans this summer. Google, however, went from leasing space at St. John’s Terminal, a 12-story building at 550 Washington St., to buying the site last year for $2.1 billion.

Pichai said there’s a clear case for Google’s continued growth here: access to a diverse pool of tech talent.

“I’m personally long-term bullish on our growth in New York as a company,” he told Crain’s reporters during a roundtable. “And we would do that only if we’re optimistic to access to tech talent and being able to scale up.”

Google plans to open offices at St. John’s Terminal by the middle of next year, he said. With its existing space at 315 and 345 Hudson St., the company’s footprint across its Hudson Square campus is expected to be a combined 1.7 million square feet.

As of last September, the company employed 12,000 people in New York. It has said it aims to add at least 2,000 employees to its city workforce in the coming years.

Part of that optimism stems from the city’s growth in fintech, Pichai said. New York is home to more than 1,000 active fintech startups, and that includes at least 20 companies that have attained unicorn status, with $1 billion or more in private valuation.

“When I looked at specific sectors, like fintech, I was surprised at the scale and number of startups in New York,” Pichai said.

Google pledged in 2020 to hire at least 10,000 people across New York, along with three other U.S. cities, by 2025 to double the number of Black employees at the company. According to a 2021 company diversity report, 4.4% of Google’s U.S. employees identified as Black or more than one race including Black.

There are at least 238 tech education and training organizations operating in more than 850 locations across the five boroughs to help stimulate equitable growth in the city’s tech sector, according to a study by the Center for an Urban Future.

Google on Thursday launched a round of grants, with $4 million going toward computer science education and teacher training, building on the company’s investments in workforce development across the city.

The city’s tech scene has doubled its share of New York’s private-sector employment to 5.2% since 2010. More recently, however, the industry has grappled with uncertainty about growth.

It’s not clear how much the digital trends of 2020 and last year signal lasting transformations in the tech sector, or are more of a blip. And given high inflation and tough economics, executives at startups and industry empires alike are concerned.

Access to diverse talent, Pichai said, is a big part of the attraction for the company’s “pretty profound” growth in New York.

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