[Updated 1/31/19, 12:12 pm CT. See below.] Google is building out a new office near downtown Madison, WI, in an expansion project that will triple the size of its local outpost—giving it enough space for an estimated total of 200-plus local employees, Xconomy has learned.
The Bay Area-based tech giant, part of parent company Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), currently occupies around 15,000 square feet of space in “The Constellation,” a 12-story development east of the state capitol building that houses business offices, apartments, bars, restaurants, and a parking garage. Google reportedly moved into that space in 2013, the year The Constellation opened. (The image above is a file photo of Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.)
Now, Google has also leased 30,000 square feet of space spanning two floors in the new Gebhardt Building across the street from The Constellation, says Otto Gebhardt. He’s CEO and founder of Gebhardt Development, the real estate investment and development company that developed both The Constellation and the Gebhardt Building, which opened in September.
Google began building out its offices in the Gebhardt Building a few weeks ago, and the project should be finished in about four months, Gebhardt says.
Gebhardt says he isn’t sure how many people Google currently employs locally, or how many people it might hire with the expansion. But he estimates that with its combined 45,000 square feet of local office space, Google will have the capacity to house around 225 employees at the Madison satellite offices.
“They’re expanding pretty fast,” Gebhardt says.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the record. [This paragraph updated.—Eds.]
Google opened the Madison operation in 2008. By early 2012, it had around 20 full-time employees here, the Wisconsin State Journal reported at the time. By mid-2016, it had doubled to 40 local staff members, Google officials said in a report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison communications department.
The office mostly houses engineers. They have done work related to large-scale computer networking and data storage systems—think indexing Web pages and storing photos, according to the 2016 UW-Madison report. The current local Google staff primarily includes software engineers, as well as some hardware engineers, according to their LinkedIn profiles. They’re working on (or have worked on) tools for Google’s ad business and on research into machine intelligence, among other projects, according to LinkedIn profiles.
As Gebhardt’s firm was recruiting tenants for the new building, he says his firm repeatedly contacted Google officials to see if they were interested, and they kept saying they “had no need to expand,” Gebhardt says. But Google’s plans later changed, and they asked if they could rent three floors in the eight-story Gebhardt Building, he says. By that time, most of the space had been spoken for, and the firm was only able to lease two floors to Google, Gebhardt says.
“All of a sudden, they needed way more space than we had left,” he says.
So, Google decided to keep its office in the Constellation and take the two floors in the Gebhardt Building.
“We didn’t expect it,” Gebhardt says. “I think it’s a great thing for Madison and a good fit” for that neighborhood, which is also home to the entrepreneurship hub StartingBlock Madison. StartingBlock is located next door to the Gebhardt Building in American Family Insurance’s Spark building, where the Madison-based insurer houses its venture capital arm and digital innovation efforts.
“Google has been an amazing part of this community, and their investment has been an important validator for the momentum we are seeing across our economy,” says Zach Brandon, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.
Google isn’t the only tech company based outside of Wisconsin that has been drawn to Madison by its lower costs, hard-working culture, and relatively strong talent pool, driven in part by a respected computer science program at UW-Madison. Other tech firms with Madison offices include San Francisco-based software company Zendesk, which in October opened new local digs with room for more than 400 employees.