Technology Companies & Data Centers Can Be Strong Community Partners

Technology Companies & Data Centers Can Be Strong Community Partners Main Photo

18 Sep 2023

Business Attraction, News

Technology companies are expanding throughout the country, but as non-traditional industries, it can be difficult for economic developers to understand how to best leverage those relationships. Bethany Quinn, Vice President of Strategy & Content Development for Golden Shovel Agency, sat down with technology executives to discuss how they see their company’s role in the community, beyond job creation and capital investment. 

“News events over the past few years have sometimes painted technology companies like Meta and Google as large corporations that are threatening our social fabric,” said Quinn. “I have found the opposite in speaking with technology leaders. People at all levels of technology companies are examining how they can positively contribute to the ecosystem of communities in which they work. They are looking at investments from a holistic perspective and actively seeking to improve the lives of local residents while supporting small business growth.” For example, Google has invested $40 million and 50,000 pro bono hours to racial justice initiatives and $100,000,000 in annual grants to help philanthropic organizations as a portion of their overall commitment to communities. Meta matched up to $7 million in 2022 on charitable donations made through Facebook Fundraising, as another example.

“I think technology companies struggle to personalize the information on giving and community contributions,” said Quinn. “For the average person, the numbers are nebulous so it’s easy to feel like these companies aren’t making a real impact in communities when they are.”

“In my conversations with Google, for example, I know they are spending a lot of effort to understand how their data centers impact a community’s entire ecosystem. They are evaluating their social impact, in addition to the economic one, in order to identify ways to maximize their investments for the betterment of entire communities,” said Quinn. “You can tell that they are passionate about leaving a lasting impact.”

Community Collaboration for Sustainable Growth

Economic developers with data centers and technology companies in their community should collaborate with company leaders, being open about what their community’s needs and challenges are. “Technology leaders want to help and will work with local leaders to brainstorm the best ways to make an impact,” said Quinn. Technology companies have, for example, invested in workforce development programs, supported nonprofit organizations, and helped to fund infrastructure work. One recent example is Google’s $10 million grant to Goodwill that will provide digital skills training to help people advance in the labor market. This innovative approach supports a national nonprofit while helping to prepare people to enter the workforce at higher wages - something that will benefit the communities in which they live. 



Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Technology companies typically have clear goals for environmental stewardship and sustainability and can be catalysts for enhancing a community’s energy grid through renewables. For example, Google has matched 100% of their electricity consumption with renewable energy purchases for five consecutive years. Power companies have responded by securing more of their energy through wind and solar, something that makes the grid more resilient long-term, benefiting everyone within a community. 

Promoting Economic Diversification 

When data centers come to a community, opportunities are created for other businesses to expand their digital presence. Google, for example, actively works to help companies realize these opportunities through partnerships with local businesses and governments to identify the specific needs and opportunities for cloud adoption. By leveraging their expertise, the Company helps businesses rethink their products and identify ways to expand digitally. This strategy applies to the workforce as well and Google is known for hiring people with transferable skills, creating job opportunities in the process. For example, they have successfully hired ex-submarine professionals due to the similarity between operating a data center and a submarine. This inclusive approach promotes economic diversification.

Technology Companies & Data Centers Can Be Strong Community Partners if You Collaborate

It’s unlikely that economic developers will ever hear of all the work being done by technology companies to enhance community ecosystems. Much of their efforts are lost in layers of data and larger donation numbers. But, that shouldn’t discourage you or give the impression that they are unwilling to partner. In reality, most technology companies are eager to help. “The best way to collaborate with technology companies in your community is to establish an open dialogue with their local representative. Companies, like Google, have a budget for how much they can spend on philanthropic efforts in a region, for example. While that number isn’t published, their local representative will have a process for requesting those funds. If you have an initiative or program that they could support, start the conversation and make it clear how that donation will impact the community and help them to achieve their long-term objectives,” said Quinn.

Explore the depth of collaboration between Technology Companies, Data Centers, and local communities. Learn from industry experts by downloading the Golden Shovel Agency Data Center Attraction Strategies whitepaper today and get latest information on how partnerships drive positive community impact!