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We’re Feeling Lucky

Troy threw a party to attract a new Google venture—and hopes the company noticed

by Elizabeth Knapp on March 24, 2010

Troygle, anyone? The Hellions of Troy skate to attract Google. Photo by Alicia Solsman

More than 100 Troy residents filled Monument Square Tuesday while the Hellions of Troy roller derby team zipped through the street, rallying support for the city’s “need for speed.” Internet speed, that is.

In early February, Google announced its plan to build and test ultra-high-speed broadband networks in the United States, giving one lucky city the opportunity to transfer data in speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. There was an immediate response from many Troy citizens, who believe their city is a prime candidate. Uncle Sam impersonators and other star-spangled individuals joined the Hellions in the square, hoping to gain Google’s attention in a fun and unique way. They held signs similar to Google Maps’ bubble-shaped indicators, making Troy’s location known.

“It raises attention and awareness,” said Mayor Harry Tutunjian, who showed off his own speed at the event as he rolled through the square on his Segway, wearing a plush Uncle Sam hat. “It shows that the community can come together—people from all different institutions, businesses, citizens, government, all coming together to really raise the attention of our efforts to get Google to come to Troy.”

From the beginning, Troy citizens were responsive to the Google initiative; hundreds joined the Facebook group within 24 hours of Google’s announcement.

“The whole city is on board,” said Councilman Ken Zalewski. “We just want to make sure our response is really strong, and as creative as possible.”

The plan’s followers have been dubbed “Troygle,” and they created troygle.org to explain the city’s goal and receive nominations. The Web site pictures Uncle Sam, this time pointing his finger at Google, telling the multinational Web giant, “I want you.”

A laptop was available at the event for attendees to nominate the city. Friday marks the deadline for nominations, and Troygle is making the final push for supporters.

Troy residents and officials believe their city is in an advantageous position to gain this distinction, listing numerous qualifications such as the city’s history, architecture and educational institutions.

“It really makes sense for Google to give Troy a serious look, because of our previous successes,” said Tutunjian.

Zalewski believes the addition of Google high-speed would showcase the ever-growing technology that already exists in the region. “We are a part of Tech Valley. There’s Silicon Valley in California, and now there’s Tech Valley right here in the Capital Region.”

The group has gained support from Troy’s educational institutions—Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Russell Sage College, Hudson Valley Community College, and Emma Willard preparatory school—the presence of which are believed to be yet another selling point.

According to Google’s guidelines, the city must have a population between 50,000 and 500,000 in order to apply, Troy being on the smaller end of the spectrum—for now, at least. Troygle supporters believe faster Internet may be what the city needs to attract more residents and businesses.

“It would add to our ammunition of ways to get people to come to Troy as another attraction,” said Tutunjian. “We have the history, we have the architecture, we have the schools, and we have the river. Having Google high-speed would put us on an international map.”

Self-proclaimed “computer nerd” Zalewski points to the national attention Troy received last fall, when President Obama visited to HVCC, as an example of the city’s greatness. Obama spoke about the importance of education for the economy, job creation, and technology. “Certainly the president saw something in the city of Troy,” he said, “and we’re hoping Google will see that same thing.”

Zalewski drafted a resolution in support of the administration’s response to Google’s request for information. The resolution passed in the city council unanimously, “which is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s even bringing some harmony to the government process, which is nice.”

Though Zalewski realizes the extent of Troy’s competition—bigger, more populated cities—he remains confident in Troy and the people that represent the city. “It’s very, very exciting. Somewhere deep down, I have a gut feeling we’re going to get this. Based on the response we’ve had so far, I feel like we can do it.”

“This is real Troy,” said Tutunjian. “People coming together to work toward a goal.”