A few weeks ago when I was in Cleveland, Ohio, I met Jesse Mason and Helen Qin. They’re the proud owners of Mason’s Creamery, a thriving sweets shop. Just a few years ago, they were struggling to turn their ice cream cart into a permanent storefront business. After a long search, they found an old retail space in the Ohio City neighborhood and used online tutorials to learn how to refab the building. They helped draw foot traffic with a website and advertising. Today, their business is booming and people from all over the city come to try their cutting-edge ice cream. (I tried some—really good!) Jesse and Helen aren’t techies or coders, but they were able to use the internet to help them achieve their version of the American dream.
We hear stories like Jesse and Helen’s across the country, which is why we’re fundamentally optimistic about new technology tools. They put knowledge at your fingertips, make daily life more efficient, and drive economic growth. In 2016 six percent of U.S. GDP came from internet companies, creating more than 10.4 million jobs across all 50 states—the vast majority outside of Silicon Valley.
But we need to do more to ensure more people benefit from tech advances. Access to opportunity is too often limited by background, geography, income level, or access to education. The reasons for this are complex—globalization and trade continue to reshape markets, and we face major shifts in demographics and labor force participation. Rapid technological change and the growth of automation are also part of the story.
Regardless of the mix of causes, we all have a responsibility to tackle these challenges, not just through public policy, but also through efforts by businesses, communities, and civil society groups.
That is why alongside our products and services, Google invests in a variety of initiatives to help enhance economic opportunity for everyone, whether through Google.org or Grow with Google. We want our philanthropy and our investments to catalyze larger and more scalable community programs. We’ve also started to work with the policy experts identifying public policies that can help successful approaches to grow across the country.
As part of these efforts, we’re releasing a new report—Opportunity for Everyone—that looks at economic opportunity across the United States. The report concentrates on how we can bridge gaps in education, entrepreneurship, and the social safety net.
We’re building on these ideas by piloting and testing different approaches to key challenges, through the products that we build, the programs we manage, and the philanthropy we support. As these initiatives show promise, we hope to work with policymakers as well as business and community leaders to help the best concepts scale. And where we don’t see success, we’ll be public about that as well, so that others can learn from the results. The ideas aren’t meant to be a holistic solution, but downpayments on places where we think smart policies and investments can have a big impact. We’re approaching this issue knowing that we‘re not going to have all the solutions, but we’re hoping to contribute where we can.
If you happen to be in Cleveland, I recommend a visit to Mason’s Creamery to hear from Jesse and Helen about how they were able to grow their business—and try the candied pecan. Their story is inspiring. And there are millions of Jesses and Helens out there, dreaming of an ice cream shop or a quilting store or an after-school program for kids. It’s up to all of us to make sure that everyone can access the opportunities that technology brings. We hope today’s report can move us a step closer to that goal.