Search engine scouts look for space for a tech center that could employ up to 1,000.
Ann Arbor may become home to a new technology center for up to 1,000 employees from Google Inc., the Internet search engine giant that was recently hired to digitize the University of Michigan's 19 libraries.
In recent weeks, Google real estate representatives were scouting the Ann Arbor area for up to 75,000 square feet of space for a technology center that would help meet the company's growing demand.
The project could eventually grow to 200,000 square feet of space, real estate officials said.
"We do know a broker representing Google was in town looking for space about three weeks ago," said Chris Martin, vice president for First Martin Corp., an Ann Arbor-based real estate development firm.
"It will be very difficult to find research and technology space in large quantities near U of M, because that area has few vacancies, but there are options nearby."
A real estate survey called the Feldman Report notes Ann Arbor has an 88 percent occupancy rate, one of the highest in the region.
Metro Detroit-area office buildings have posted sizable vacancies in recent years due to the sluggish economy, a downturn in the automotive industry and rising productivity.
"We would welcome any opportunity to work with Google to meet their future expansion needs," said Michael Shore, spokesman for Michigan Economic Development Corp. in Lansing, which helps lure companies to the state with tax breaks and other incentives. "We hope to land as many high-paying technology jobs as we can."
Google spokesman Steve Langdon declined to confirm the project.
"We do not have any plans to announce about facilities in any new locations," Langdon wrote in an e-mail Thursday seeking comment.
Boston and Boulder, Colo., are other cities Google is considering for the project, which seeks to tap communities with a large population of recent college graduates from 22 to 30 years old.
One of Google's founders, Larry Page, earned an engineering degree from U-M. The company is based in Mountain View, Calif., where its headquarters is known as the "Googleplex."
Google is also looking for space to digitize thousands of bound materials within U-M's library system, said John Wilkin, associate university librarian. "I wish we could accommodate them on campus, but we simply don't have the room."
Google personnel are working at U-M's Buhr Remote Shelving Facility, but Wilkin didn't have an exact employee total or the amount of space they were using.
The project began last July, with a goal of finishing in six years, but the work could be done in three years, Wilkin said.
"The goal is to have the libraries digitized within six years, but they may do it in as soon as three years," Wilkin said.
Tim Robinson, vice president of the Washtenaw Development Council, a nonprofit growth organization in Ann Arbor that helps arrange tax incentive programs, has not been contacted by Google representatives.
"Having Google in town would be a boost to our community and the region," he said.
Google, similar to other search engines such as Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves, has gained notoriety in recent years with the growing use of the Internet by businesses, students and families.
Last August, Google announced its first public stock offering, which closed at $100.34 a share on the first day of trading. Google shares closed Thursday at $286.31 on the Nasdaq.
You can reach R.J. King at (313) 222-2504 or email@example.com.
By R.J. King / The Detroit News