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Google shows off new Cambridge campus

Google Inc.’s substantial presence in Cambridge gets even bigger Tuesday, as the giant search and advertising company formally opens its new Kendall Square campus.

The expansion merges three Google-occupied buildings at Cambridge Center into an integrated facility, in a bid to encourage more creative interaction among its 800 employees.

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“We’ve envisioned a campus instead of three separate buildings or even three connected buildings,” said Steve Vinter, Google’s engineering director in Cambridge. “We’ve built about 40,000 square feet of space which isn’t where you sit at your desk — it’s where you bump into people.”

Google opened a small advertising sales office in Boston in 2003 but crossed the river in 2006 after it acquired Android Inc., a startup that created the now-popular software for smartphones. The Android team formed the core of Google’s first Cambridge lab, and the company has been ramping up its presence here ever since. With the latest expansion, Google Cambridge occupies 300,000 square feet on 12 floors. The company has completely taken over one of the three buildings and has a little less than half of the space in the other two.

Kelly Thompson Clark, president of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, said the Google expansion is the culmination of a long campaign to build the company’s presence in her city. “I took [Mayor David] Maher to meet Steve Vinter several years ago,” Clark said. “It was part of my evil plan. I wanted Google to expand in Cambridge.”

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Vinter didn’t need much persuading. He said the larger footprint will make it easier for Google to tap the Boston area’s deep pool of technical talent. “I really believed that we needed to make this a more attractive place for people graduating from our universities to stay and work,” Vinter said.

While there’s a substantial sales team in the Cambridge office, it’s staffed mostly by engineers who maintain a broad array of Google products and services and develop new ones. “We work on a good cross-section of everything that Google does,” Vinter said.

For instance, the Cambridge crew is responsible for the server software that powers YouTube, the Internet video service that attracts about one billion viewers each month. They codevelop the Chrome Internet browser, as well as Flight Search, a Google service that lets users quickly look up travel information. Google Cambridge is also working on wearable computing products like the Google Glass head-mounted computer and Android Wear software for smart watches.

It all takes a lot of brainpower of the sort that has attracted a horde of computing, Internet, and biotech firms to Cambridge. “Obviously, these companies are coming to a community that is bookended by Harvard and MIT, and they’re pulling from that student base,” Clark said.

But though it’s only a few steps away from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Google Cambridge recruits from a broad array of colleges in the area.

“We’ve got people here who’ve graduated from 23 Massachusetts schools,” said Vinter, who earned his doctorate in computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “To me, the goal is to create as much opportunity for people in Massachusetts as possible.”

The Cambridge expansion includes plenty of room for new employees, and Vinter said Google is always hiring. “Right now there’s probably 15 or 20 projects that are looking for software engineers,” and there are openings in advertising sales, he said.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.
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