By Bud Elder
When one “googles” the search engine company Google, it might come as a surprise to find that the giant conglomerate is one of Oklahoma’s strongest corporate citizens. Now, through the cooperation of the Oklahoma Lt. Governor’s office, soldiers from the 45th Infantry returning from Afghanistan will have the opportunity to participate in the company’s new program for veterans and their families.
According to Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, googleforveterans.com will offer a myriad of support tools for those soldiers trying to return to civilian life.
“This website was designed by the Google Veterans Network, the company’s employee community of veterans, reservists, guardsmen, family members and other supporters who have had firsthand experience with the challenge of serving, coming home and transitioning back into the real world,” said Lamb. “This site includes tools such as ‘Google Resume Builder,’ video transition tips and ‘Vet Connect for Google.’”
Lamb also states that Google has established a veterans channel at youtube.com/veterans, where individuals can share their video thanks with veterans who have served, as well as those who are currently serving America both home and overseas.
“These videos are organized by state, which will allow thankful Oklahomans to communicate with their vets, active duty servicemen and women and the soldiers of the 45th infantry,” Lamb said.
It was Larry Page and Sergey Brin who, as Ph.D. students at Stanford University, discovered Google in March 1996, as part of a research project – the Stanford Digital Library Project. Funded through the National Science Foundation, the goal of the program was to “enable technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library.”
Through a series of experiments and tests far too complicated to explain here, the duo first placed the engine on the Stanford website at google.stanford.edu. The domain google.com was registered on Sept. 15, 1997; then the pair formally incorporated their company, Google, Inc. on Sept. 4, 1998 at a friend’s garage in Menlo Park, Calif.
At its peak in early 2004, Google handled upwards of 84.7 percent of all research requests on the World Wide Web.
On May 2, 2007, Google took a decided turn toward all things Sooner state when they announced plans to invest $600 million to build a data center complex at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Okla.
Lloyd Taylor, director of global operations for Google and then-Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry made the announcement.
“Our new project in Oklahoma will help us to provide fast, reliable and innovative online services for our users and customers,” Taylor said. “The assets we found here at MidAmerica Industrial Park are an outstanding fit to our needs. The state of Oklahoma has been wonderfully helpful during our site selection process, and we look forward to growing our business here and becoming an active participant in the successful future of Mayes County and Oklahoma as a whole.”
Gov. Henry was pleased at the announcement.
“This announcement marks a real milestone for Oklahoma, so it’s only fitting that it arrives in the year of our state’s centennial,” he said. “Google is one of the most innovative and exciting companies in the world today, and this data center means the creation of good paying, high-tech jobs. The establishment of this facility will have a continued and positive economic impact on Pryor and other communities across Oklahoma.”
Actually, Google first looked at Oklahoma in 2005, when they began to survey the central region of the nation for potential data sites. The following year, Google site selection representatives began to visit a short list of states that would provide a good environment for a data center.
“What Google was looking for was right here, including available land, water, electricity and a rich and reliable telecommunications infrastructure,” Gov. Henry said. “Our talent pool of potential employees was also attractive to the company.”
That was then … this is now.
On April 4, Google announced that it was planning to double its server capacity in Oklahoma, adding 50 new jobs and building an entirely new facility.
Mike Wooten, data center operations manager, announced that the new facility would be built next to the data center already located in Pryor. Jobs will include equipment maintenance and positions working on the deployment of servers.
Oklahoma’s current Google center employs more than 100 workers and contains systems that support Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search and Google Plus. Wooten says the new facility will have a café, gym, game room and office space, and will bring Google’s investment into Oklahoma at some $700 million.
“In addition to expanding our operational footprint, our new facility will enable us to offer services to our employees that will improve their day-to-day work experience and contribute to their health and well-being,” Wooten said.
As Oklahoma corporate citizens, Wooten felt it important that the company take part in the return of the 45th Infantry from its service in Afghanistan.
“Google believes in supporting the communities in which our Googlers work,” he said. “Since we opened the data center in Pryor, we feel it’s only natural that we would support the state’s National Guard.”
According to Wooten, the decision to build the military websites was a team effort.
”We are doing this because our own employees, who are members of the veterans’ community, believe strongly that our products and tools can be helpful to those who have served in the military, particularly those going through their transition out of the military. Google has a large veterans’ community, called VetNet, which is made up of veterans, family members and supporters,” he added. “There are nearly 500 members in the group. Google and VetNet continually support veterans and members of the military. Recently, Google donated 500 Chromebooks to several military hospitals to help wounded, injured and sick service members connect with their friends and families.”
Wooten adds that most of the support is totally free.
”All of the tools are free for members of the military. For veterans who are no longer part of the military, only one tool, ‘Google Voice,’ can require payment,” said Wooten. “These tools are designed to help veterans and their loved ones connect, communicate and help each other through deployments and transitions back to civilian life. We believe that greater understanding of veterans’ issues encourages communities to celebrate their veterans. This is why we also have created a forum for civilians that allows them to learn more about veterans’ experiences and give thanks to those who have served.”
All members of the military need do is visit googleforveterans.com and explore all of the Google products and tools available. From there, they should take a look at the “Tools For Veterans” section and share with their families the “Tools for Families” as well. Military personnel may also visit youtube.com/veterans, where they can share transition tips with other veterans, along with sharing other experiences with civilians to help them understand the importance and complexity of service.
Those not in the military can visit youtube.com/veterans and explore the “Veterans’ Voices” section to hear veterans talk about their experiences in their own words. These are organized by question (like “why did you choose to serve” and “how was your transition out of the military”). In the “Tributes” section, one can upload a video message expressing appreciation for service members and their families.
Lt. Gov. Lamb is thrilled with the concept.
“I am proud to work with Google on this meaningful and thoughtful initiative to honor our service men and women, many of whom are far away from home” he said. “In Oklahoma, we hold the highest respect and appreciation for our soldiers and officers who serve in the military. Our fellow Oklahomans who have volunteered to serve our country deserve our thanks for their patriotism.”