The search giant opened its New York City office a decade ago. Time flies.
FORTUNE — It takes 10 years to become a New Yorker. There’s no official document that says this, and you can argue the point if you like, but among my friends, that’s the going wisdom.
So, it’s official: I offer my congratulations to Google GOOG . Your world headquarters may be in Mountain View, but you’re an official New Yorker.
Of course, Google’s first “office” was a Starbucks on 86th Street where Tim Armstrong regularly checked in with an over-caffeinated sales team starting in 2000. But in 2003, the company made a decision that was somewhat unusual by Silicon Valley’s standards: It relocated two of its most talented engineers — Craig Nevill-Manning and Craig Silverstein — to the Big Apple. A former Rutgers professor, Nevill-Manning asked Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start the office and, as he remembers, “They said, if I could find 15 good engineers, I could stay.”
A decade later, the company has more than 1,500 engineers among its 3,200 New York employees. That’s a tenth of Google’s global workforce. Roughly 60% of these folks work in engineering. Many notable products have been developed in the New York office including Maps and Docs.
The building itself has gone a long way toward making Google a credible citizen of the city. Google first moved into 111 Eighth Ave. in October 2006, five years before New York’s trendy elevated park, The High Line, brought attention to the far west side of Manhattan. Then in December 2010, Google paid $1.9 billion to purchase the historic former Port Authority building, which occupies an entire city block and offers 3 million square feet of office space. (That’s big. The Empire State building, by comparison, offers just more than 2 million square feet of office space.)
And in turn, Google deserves a good deal of credit for helping to seed New York’s growing tech community. There’s no doubt it has attracted talented engineers to the city. The company’s alumni have often started or joined local tech startups. And as New York endeavors to get a world-class tech school — Cornell NYC Tech — up and running, Google is housing the students until the new campus on Roosevelt Island is ready. Eight students began classes on the third floor of 111 Eighth Ave. in January. Said Nevill-Manning, “They just celebrated the end of their first semester, and I went downstairs to see their final presentations.”
Google’s New York rise holds larger significance for Nevill-Manning. “In a way, Google coming here and technology in general flourishing here mirrors the rise of cities as desirable places to live,” he reflects. “Silicon Valley was formed as an urban sprawl of industry in the ’50s and ’60s. I think creative people (and I count engineers among them because we’re making things) want to live in cities.”
So the Big Apple has more creative people than the Valley? Spoken like a true New Yorker.