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Google in Pittsburgh signals tech burst

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JEREMY HOBSON: News this morning in the Wall Street Journal about some skepticism over a Google takeover of the online travel search engine ITA. ITA is used by fare-compare sites like Kayak and Orbitz. Well, competitors are questioning whether Google would unfairly send web searchers to its own travel services if the takeover is approved.

The ITA acquisition is part of a larger picture at Google, a company that continues to expand and hire despite the tough economy. But before you punch up your resume and start looking for an apartment in Silicon Valley, you should know that the big part of Google's expansion is happening in Pittsburgh.

Mark Nootbaar of WDUQ has the story.


MARK NOOTBAAR: Google has more than 100 employees housed in a small building on the Carnegie Mellon University Campus. Its bursting at the seams. So the company is about to move two miles down the street. Google first partnered with Carnegie Mellon in 2006.

Rick McCullough is the vice president for research at the school.

RICK MCCULLOUGH: A lot of universities thought that we were insane, to have companies polluting the purity of the ivory tower and the academics and that turns out to be what we believe is the future of research.

The engineering manager at Google's Pittsburgh office is Kamal Nigam. He relies on those close ties to Carnegie Mellon.

KAMAL NIGAM: Some of our software engineers teach classes at CMU, we have faculty who come and do sabbatical with us, we have joint lecture series, we hire interns.

Carnegie Mellon continues to attract big names to its campus including Intel, Apple and Disney. McCullough says every company has different standards for sharing intellectual property, funding and staff.

MCCULLOUGH: We don't make partnerships with all corporations, we hand pick the ones we want to partner with. The ones that are really, really difficult to work with on intellectual property and legal issues, we walk away.

Carnegie Mellon is not alone in getting tech companies here. There's also the Pittsburgh Technology Council. It's leader is Audrey Russo, who says having bigger names in town really helps attract other firms.

AUDREY RUSSO: It just changes the plane of the conversation in terms of our credibility.

Andy Quayle has bought what Russo is trying to sell. Quayle came to the states from the Isle of Man and eventually settled in Pittsburgh, where he launched an Internet solutions company. He sits in a Starbucks in a waterfront entertainment district that once hosted a two-mile long steel mill.

ANDY QUAYLE: People are coming into town, they're like wow, Pittsburgh is not like what I imagined it would be. There's a whole lot of tech in Pittsburgh, there are start-ups coming up all over the place, there are incubator labs, there's a whole lot of talent here in Pittsburgh.

Quayle says Pittsburgh is becoming the "Silicon valley of the East." So much so that he's launched the blog -- "Techburgh.com."

I'm Mark Nootbaar for Marketplace.

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