my Mom vs. big tech: Google in San Jose

by Tara Nguyen

For a few years there’s been talk of Google opening a campus in San Jose — right  in the neighborhood of my family’s business of wholesale produce and groceries. Google has over seventy offices in about fifty countries, and in the past, these campuses weren’t always met with the warmest of welcomes. For example, in Berlin public outcry caused Google to withdraw their plans of opening a facility for tech start-ups in 2018.

When I was little I spent a lot of afternoons running up and down the Alameda where the big city of San Jose finds a small town vibe. With annual 4th of July parades and local coffee shops dotting the main road, what will the future look like over the train tracks? 

As a family, we don’t necessarily pay much attention to these talks of companies moving. It’s never affected us. Now we’re going to be facing it head on. With that, I wanted to see how my mom feels about it all. 

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Tara Nguyen: Hey Mom

Diem Nguyen: Hi Tara

TN: So where did you grow up? 

DN: I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. My family immigrated there in 1980 and [I] finished all my schooling through college. 

TN: Would you say your job and type of work is location dependent? 

DN: Well, we are currently [in] Downtown San Jose. I think location is important due to our clientele within the area. We have a lot [of clients] in the Vietnam town area and throughout the bay area, but not too far. Where we’re located, the freeway entrance is very easy for us to get to our clients. So I guess location is important. 

TN: So Google is opening a new campus in San Jose. What do you think this really means for San Jose? 

DN: I mean, I’m all for it. I think it’s great for the whole city of San Jose. I’m sure it’s going to bring jobs. It’s going to bring great housing. The only disadvantage is that I feel that I will be [pushed] out of my location.There is talk of BART going through where my warehouse is located within the next two years. There’s been conversations, there’s been surveys. Nothing is definite. 

TN: Has the news affected you personally?

DN: Yes. A year ago there was talk of a potential move and [BART] came out and did a survey and then nothing came about it.Then again, I just got it. [and] again, right before covid hit that there will be changes.

TN: Has there ever been a time that you felt like you were forced to move out of somewhere? 

DN: Yes, we’ve talked about moving. If we need to expand and get a better warehouse, things start to grow with the business. But, things have changed so much in the last year that there is no major plan for any big expansion.  

TN: So you kind of moved often when you were little, you immigrated, and you came to the US with dad. Do you think that’s ever changed your perspective on mobility? 

DN: Yeah, It makes you more flexible, learning to adapt. Our main concern is moving again. It’s all about the big piece of finance the way the rents are. We have a great location. We have a great landlord who’s giving us a good deal that I don’t think we can ever go somewhere else and be able to afford to pay for something similar. The whole process of them coming out and trying to survey and have questionnaires. It’s a little bit frustrating because the people who’re doing the survey haven’t stepped foot into the area to have an idea of what we’re all about. They’re just looking at a map and I felt like they’ve never even gone down. 

TN: What would those questions would be?

DN: “How many times a day will a large box truck drive through your area?” We are a warehouse. There’s delivery.This is going to be a truck coming in and out, all day. 

I wish they’d look at the location and customer. Look at what they’re dealing with instead of calling us, spending an hour on the phone, to ask me questions when they have no idea where I am or what we’re doing. They don’t think how it’s going to affect all these people’s lives? Are they going to shift us somewhere [else] while offering to help us find a new location? We’re going to help you with all this but they don’t realize, it’s not as easy as they say.

TN: Well, that’s all I got for ya.

DN: Sounds good!

Photo credit: Google