News Tip: Google in Durham is Reason for Cautious Optimism, Expert Says


Google announced it is opening a cloud engineering hub in Durham, which the tech giant says could generate 1,000 jobs and grow into one of its key U.S. engineering hubs. Comments below from Duke University professor John Quinterno, an expert on economic policy, can be used in your coverage.

“Google’s recent announcement about its hopes to grow its presence in Durham is an exciting one with potentially positive effects that could ripple out through the larger Triangle,” says John Quinterno, a visiting professor of the practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

“This announcement is in many ways a testament to our region’s strengths, which include a highly educated working-age population, a concentration of excellent public and private universities and technical colleges, a core of leading engineering and computer science firms, a culture of collaborative civic leadership, and a pleasing quality of life.”

“Yet as with any proposed project of this size, the details matter, and if they are not considered carefully by civic leaders, this project could turbocharge the issues of displacement and gentrification with which Durham has been struggling,” Quinterno says.

“First, while Google says it could add as many as 1,000 jobs over a period of years, those positions may not materialize. It is hardly unusual for a firm to quietly change announced expansion plans due to changes in the business environment or shifts in corporate strategy.”

“Second, unusual for a project of this size, the announcement made no mention of the provision of public subsidies by the state, county or city. Perhaps no subsidies will be involved, or perhaps those items are under discussion and will be announced later. If subsidies do come into play, they will need to be weighed carefully since they represent a potentially sizable transfer of public resources from the community at large to a favored firm and its employees,” Quinterno says.

“Third, who will benefit from this expansion? Ideally, the jobs would go to local residents, graduates of the area’s colleges and universities, and people trained through the public workforce system. If most of the best paying jobs are reserved for people transferring to Durham while local residents have access only to relatively lower-paying positions, the expansion will exacerbate economic disparities.”

“Finally, a project of this size can have a destabilizing effect on a community. A rapid infusion of people with highly lucrative jobs will put upward pressure on housing prices and living costs, which will fuel the processes of residential displacement and gentrification –processes that place disproportionate burdens on the shoulders of existing residents of modest means and widen racial and class inequities.”   

John Quinterno

John Quinterno is a visiting professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is also the founder and principal of South by North Strategies Ltd., a research consultancy specializing in economic and social policy. Quinterno is the author of “Running the Numbers: A Practical Guide to Regional Economic and Social Analysis” (New York: Routledge, 2014). Quinterno

For additional comment, contact John Quinterno at:

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