COUNCIL BLUFFS — When Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bob Mundt walked into the Google offices south of the city Thursday afternoon, he saw an employee zipping around on a push scooter.
“You wouldn't see anything like that happen in my office,” Mundt said.
Internet giant Google on Thursday marked the opening of its new data center by inviting community leaders in to see the funky space its Bluffs employees get to work in as they run the computer systems that support such services as the Internet search engine, Gmail and Google Maps.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., opened its first data center on 200 acres of land in the Lake Manawa area in 2009. The company then announced plans for a second Bluffs data center on a 975-acre site about a mile east of the MidAmerican Energy plant.
That center has been operational for about a month, but parts of it are still under construction and not yet at full capacity.
The company said it wanted to thank the community for its help in making the facility possible.
Data Center Manager Chris Russell and Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan spoke, with Hanafan pointing out to the 75 people present how much of a role Google was already playing in Council Bluffs, including making free wireless Internet available in some public parks and giving Chromebook laptop computers to schools.
“Google has made a difference in our community way beyond building buildings,” he said
In April, Google announced plans to continue its expansion with an additional $400 million investment in the new center. With those additional dollars, Google's investment in its Iowa facilities totals more than $1.5 billion. The new facility has received $16.8 million in state tax incentives.
The offices have a sci-fi, “Wizard of Oz” decor designed to appeal to tech types and to enhance collaboration, said Matt Dunne, head of community affairs for Google.
There are a number of small meeting rooms with different themes, including a blue and black “Wicked Witch” room with a wall decorated with the heavies from “Star Wars,” like Darth Vader. There is also a gameroom with three big-screen video game systems, two plush bean bags and a pool table.
“It helps promote a happy atmosphere around work,” said Matt Striffler, 32, of Papillion, site project manager for construction. “Sometimes you need a breather to reset and refocus.”
Mundt said he hoped Google's presence would draw other tech companies to Council Bluffs.
“I think it's a different kind of workforce,” he said. “And I think it opens us up to a lot more potential.”
The cloud has to be someplace physical, he said, and it might as well be in Council Bluffs.