Larry Page, the CEO and founder of Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), the third most valuable company in the U.S., signed a contract with President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson on behalf of the Icelandic government a short time ago allowing the company to move its headquarters to Northeast Iceland. Approximately 34,000 of Google’s employees will relocate to the new state-of-the-art HQ at Akur in Öxarfjörður, within the next 15 months.
“Location, location, location,” said Page in a statement after the contract was signed. “Iceland is midway between Europe and North America and is always on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Of course, the cheap renewable energy and cool climate, which helps to keep our servers at the desired temperature, are also major drawcards. What is perhaps most important, though, is that the Icelandic laws on information sharing via the internet are among the strictest in the world. This means that institutions like the NSA [National Security Agency] will find it virtually impossible to monitor data, as they have been found to be doing in the U.S.”
Google will build the new town Akur (on completion, the town is expected to be the nation’s second largest after Reykjavík) and its company headquarters on land provided by the Icelandic government. The town will be located 5 km (3 miles) from Ásbyrgi, on the doorstep of Vatnajökull National Park.
As part of the new agreement, the Government of Iceland will build an international airport—the Skinnastaður International Airport—several kilometers north of Akur. Icelandair, Iceland’s national carrier, will start daily flights to San Francisco, Seattle, New York, London, and Frankfurt as early as November. Flights to Copenhagen, Helsinki, Madrid and Paris will run five times a week and flights to Bombay and Beijing will operate twice-weekly. San Francisco and Beijing are an eight hours’ flight from Skinnastaður, New York five and London three.
The government has been placing renewed emphasis on attracting foreign investment to Iceland over the last couple of years. The agreement with Google is considered proof that Iceland has the business environment and laws to attract even the biggest of companies.
A small but vocal group of individuals have raised their concerns about the possible impact of moving 34,000 U.S. citizens—more than 10 percent of Iceland’s population—to Northeast Iceland. What will happened to the Icelandic language? And how will Google influence lawmakers and the surrounding natural environment.
Currently, the City of Reykjavík is the largest employer with 7,700 individuals on its payroll. Google will be five times larger.
Páll Stefánsson - [email protected]
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