At the Google campus on the outskirts of Mountain View, employees sip lattes under brightly colored umbrellas as others pass on company bicycles, laptops secured in the front baskets. This year the company will add substantially to its work force of more than 5,000 in that Silicon Valley city, and it has just leased nine acres to expand its campus.But these people are supposed to be progressive:
But closer to downtown, Carolina Rivera finds herself in a decidedly less attractive environment — the crowded office of the Community Services Agency, where she is looking for a job. She has three children to support and has not found anything since her hours at an organic-food factory were reduced. Those like Mrs. Rivera find life difficult in Mountain View: the competition for work is fierce, housing is expensive and cuts in government services are pending as the city tries to balance its budget.
Mountain View, home to technology kingpins like Google, LinkedIn and Symantec, illustrates the disconnect between the current technology boom and the daily economic realities of many in Silicon Valley. The five biggest tech companies with headquarters in town are valued at more than $200 billion, but Mountain View, with a population of 74,000, faces a $2.6 million budget gap and has an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent.
“We really are seeing two very different economies emerging,” said Emmett Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “We have the Google campus; they’re expanding, they’re adding employees, they’re doing very well financially. But the nonprofit sector and local government have been stretched to the maximum.”
Part of the problem is that corporate campuses, with their own cafeterias, day care centers and other employee perks, are not always very integrated into the surrounding community.Actually, Google acts exactly as it should. It's an extremely successful business that creates a self-sustaining social support system. The trick is to create more Googles, that is, to expand the employment sector to include more companies providing goods and services to an expanding marketplace, which will increase the demand for labor and take the strain off local governments, which don't have the money to care for the sick and unskilled. The rub is that Googe and other progressive tech firms are left-leaning business organizations that operate according to a vision more like Milton Friedman's than Paul Krugman's. It's all in the messaging. New York Times is going off the reservation on this one.
“The industry doesn’t create a lot of demand for services,” said Terry Christensen, a professor at San Jose State University who specializes in Silicon Valley politics. “The Google campus, they pay their taxes, but their workers don’t necessarily use parks, police and other traditional services, so you get a disconnect between the businesses themselves and the people who work in them.”
Just as important, many local residents are simply not in the talent pool for high-tech jobs. The people looking for work at the Community Services Agency have skills in other areas, like housecleaning, gardening and washing dishes, and those jobs are scarce.