- Associated Press - Sunday, October 1, 2017

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Tech giant Google is bringing its employees in Ann Arbor together under one roof and celebrating the opening of its new campus on the north side of the city.

The totally renovated 135,000-square-foot space on Traverwood Drive is a far cry from Google’s original office in Ann Arbor, a tiny space above Vinology on Ann Arbor’s Main Street.

Today, from the grand staircase that winds up three floors, to work spaces devoted to Google’s AdWords and DoubleClick programs, there’s a feeling of newness and excitement as employees pour into the new office and make it their own.

“We’re excited to get everyone back together in the same place, which is really what this grand opening represents for us,” said Charles Scrase, co-site lead and director of Google Technical Services at Google Ann Arbor. “We are in process of moving everyone under the same roof as we speak.”

It’s been more than two years since Google moved out of its downtown Ann Arbor space at the McKinley Towne Centre, which is now occupied by software company LLamasoft. The company has been operating at the Traverwood site as well as an office building near Briarwood Mall.

“It was a difficult decision for us,” said Tracy McNeilly, director of facilities for Google, about the construction of a new office building. “We weren’t able to accommodate all of our needs downtown. This was an opportunity for us to continue to have an Ann Arbor presence and the ability to grow as needed.”

The north side campus offers Google the opportunity to bring employees together from different locations in Ann Arbor, Scrase said, as renovations wind up on Phase 2 of construction.

Those employees also had an active role in defining their new workspaces, McNeilly told The Ann Arbor News . Most Google offices have the same technology but are all unique in some way or another, he said.

“It’s really important to reflect the local culture and what that employee base views as important. No two Google offices are the same,” McNeilly said. “The employees play an active role in helping determine what is important and how they want to work.”

The first phase of construction took into account how Google employees work, with work settings from cafe tables to elevated workspaces, with micro-kitchens on each floor to encourage workers to talk about their work in a more casual setting.

Google’s email platform, Gmail, was developed as a result of a conversation at a micro-kitchen, said Eric Yuhasz, facilities manager for Michigan and Montreal.

“The next big idea could be a result of a casual collision,” Yuhasz said.

Scattered throughout the campus are amenities meant to alleviate employee stress and enhance the work experience like a massage studio, a cafeteria with vegan and vegetarian meal options, a fully-equipped fitness center and an on-staff barista for a quick pick-me-up.

You may even see some four-legged companions walking around the office, as employees are welcome to bring in their dogs, as well as have their families visit them on campus from time to time.

“It’s a really exciting place to be,” said Karen Godwin, co-site lead and director of Google Marketing Solutions at Google Ann Arbor.

Google officials declined to specify the amount of investment in the campus renovations, but said it was a “significant” amount.

Officials said they wanted to maintain Google’s presence in Ann Arbor for a variety of reasons: the talent base found in Michigan along with its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.

It even came down to the local culture, what Scrase identified as a “warm and friendly environment.”

“I think the thing that people talk about first and foremost when they talk about Ann Arbor is the people, the culture,” Scrase said. “I also think it is the way in which people engage with each other and their communities.”

Google has more than 450 employees working in Ann Arbor, and more than 600 employees in Michigan. Exact numbers were not provided.

Some of those employees work in the Waymo office in Detroit, where Google’s parent company Alphabet is directing its efforts in the mobility industry with self-driving automobiles and associated technology.

While the tech giant declined to comment on future hiring strategies, Godwin said the new campus affords Google the opportunity to grow.

“We’re excited to continue to be here and support this economy,” Godwin said.

In addition to sales and customer service departments in Ann Arbor, Google also operates a 24/7 tech support center that shares a workload with another Google office located in Sydney, Australia.

Google prides itself on being an incredibly innovative company and being responsive to its customers,” Godwin said. “We believe that helps support customer success for customers large and small.”

It also reacts to the needs of its workforce, Yuhasz said, which is exemplified in the new campus building.

“Everything from the infrastructure of the building, creating gender neutral restrooms throughout the facility to thoughtful rooms like the library,” Yuhasz said. “We have a strong culture of inclusion.”

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Information from: The Ann Arbor News, https://www.mlive.com/ann-arbor

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