Bloomberg Businessweek USA - 02.03.2020

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THE BOTTOM LINE Google’s commitments to environmental
sustainability have long been ahead of its peers’, but it’s quietly
cutting deals that make sure it doesn’t bear all the costs.

named and described only as a “large commercial
and industrial customer.”
Google’s name became public at a Minnesota
Public Utilities Commission hearing on May 14 last
year. The commission approved Xcel’s discount
for the company at the hearing, without a public
comment period to debate the terms. As part of its
rationale for granting the discount, the commission
referred to data from the Google-funded Oxford
Economics report. “We believe public dialogue is
vital to the process of building new sites and offices,
so we actively engage with community members
and elected officials in the places we call home,”
says Google spokeswoman Mein. “Of course, when
we enter new communities we use common indus-
try practices and work with municipalities to follow
their required procedures.”
“A city of our size had made it to the global
market,” says Becker Mayor Tracy Bertram.
“For somebody of that magnitude to recognize
us, that was a very proud moment for all of us.”
Bruce Messelt, the administrator of Sherburne
County, which will lose $6.2  million in taxes in
the deal, says that he’d rather Google had moved
to town without the incentives, “but we’ll take

▲ Pruszinske and

the better-than-nothing concept for the next
20 years, and then hopefully they’ll pay taxes.”
Inside a modest conference room in Becker’s
town hall, Pruszinske stares at an aerial map. A
black blotch representing Sherco’s coalfield stands
out among farmland where fields of russet potatoes,
green beans, and seed corn grow in rotation. For the
foreseeable future, Google’s data center will do little
to offset the 75% hole that’s going to be punched in
the town budget when the coal plant shuts down.
“It’s been challenging, and I’ve had some anxiety
along with it,” Pruszinske says. Still, he’s sanguine
about Becker’s future, pointing out the site of a new
metal recycling plant, an expanding trucking com-
pany, and scattered warehouses. Other tech compa-
nies might even take over more of the farmland, he
says, now that Google has noticed Becker. “When
I look at this map,” he says, “all I see is possibility.”
�Mya Frazier. Reporting for this story was supported
by the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the
City University of New York’s Newmark Graduate
School of Journalism
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