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WIDENING THE WEALTH GAP
Google's IPO turned most of the company's roughly 2,500 employees at the time of the IPO into millionaires, including its head chef and masseuse. Even more wealth has been created as Google helped turn the Internet and mobile devices into gold mines for workers with programming skills and ingenuity.
But the high-tech boom has also created an ever-widening gap in the San Francisco Bay area between people employed in the industry and a sizable population of locals who increasingly have trouble making ends meet as the region's cost of living steadily escalates.
"If you already own a home here, you are golden," says Michael Kasperzak, a city councilman in Google's hometown of Mountain View, California. "If you don't, you are in a world of hurt."
The median price of Mountain View houses stood a $1.33 million in June, a 72 percent increase from $775,000 a decade ago, according to research firm CoreLogic Dataquick. In nearby Palo Alto, the median price has nearly tripled during that time to $2.4 million and the median price has nearly doubled in other neighboring communities, such as Cupertino ($1.7 million) and Sunnyvale ($1.2 million).
It's getting tougher to pay the rent, too. Apartment rents have nearly doubled during the past decade in the three counties where many Google and other high-tech workers live: In San Francisco the average is $3,229 per month; in San Mateo it's $2,470; and in Santa Clara $2,321.
Google won't give geographic breakdowns where its workers, but a substantial number of its nearly 50,000 employees are based in Mountain View. Even though Google deploys a fleet of shuttle buses in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay area to transport its workers to Mountain View, the traffic is so bad in the mornings and evenings that Kasperzak says the city may have to consider imposing tolls during the most heavily congested hours.
Despite the headaches, "it's still pretty cool having one of the most recognizable brands in the world in your town," says Kasperzak. He just wishes he wasn't forced to sell his four shares of Google stock at a split-adjusted $150 a few years ago to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
© 2014 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.