Google sets its sights on Seattle

The search giant is leasing space and planning to hire staff in Microsoft's home town

Google may be planning to boost its presence in Seattle after leasing a new building in the city.

The search giant has leased 60,000 square feet (5,574 sq m) of a building in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood from Getty Images, a company that sells digital photographs, according to a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Google has had an engineering office in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb, for two years. “In the next couple of years we expect to grow substantially and continue to invest in the Pacific Northwest,” Scott Silver, technical manager for Google’s Website Optimiser, said in a recent interview. At the time, he wouldn’t say how much the company planned to increase its presence in the region. Google already has a “few hundred” engineers in Kirkland, he said.

In addition to Website Optimiser, Google engineers in Kirkland have worked on Google Talk, Google Maps and Google Video. They also do a lot of work on advertising optimisation, Silver said.

The newly leased building is close to downtown Seattle and near an existing Google sales office.

Google will compete with Microsoft, which employs more than 35,000 people in the Seattle region, to hire workers.

“The two companies have been and will continue to compete for talent, regardless of where they’re located,” says Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

Local analysts disagree on whether Google specifically decided to open operations in Seattle to poach Microsoft workers. Rosoff doubts it. “Google recruits from around the world, and if a Microsoft employee wanted to work at Google, I don’t think location would be a huge part of the equation,” he says.

Another analyst is convinced, however, that Google is trying to lure Microsoft workers. “Google hopes to harvest engineers not just from the Northwest, but specifically from Microsoft, by setting up shop here,” says Mark Anderson, a Seattle area analyst.

Google’s website currently lists 19 openings for engineers in Seattle and Kirkland.

Google did not reply to a request for comment about a Seattle expansion.

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