Today Google is launching a massive initiative to help small businesses in Texas. Texas Get Your Business Online is a Google-led program dedicated to driving economic growth by providing Texas businesses the tools and resources to get online and succeed. It’s a new novel “feet on the street” initiative. It’s been reported that so far over 500 companies have signed up to get free sites, free hosting, tips on online marketing and listings on Google Places.

The Texas Get Your Business Online site says: “Although 97% of consumers look online for local products and services, 51% of Texan small businesses do not have a website or online presence. This makes them invisible…”

The 2 day Austin event runs from 8AM to 8:30 PM today and tomorrow. There are free seminars plus Google employees are there to help businesses build a site and set up a free business listing on Google Places, right at the event.

According to Statesman News:

Google helping small businesses in Central Texas get online

Google has built sites for small businesses in other countries, including Canada and Ireland, but Austin is its first U.S. city. Many more stops are planned, including one in San Antonio later this week.

Google hopes to get at least 100,000 of the 2.5 million small businesses statewide online within the next year, helping to make its Google Maps and Google Places offerings even more robust.

The site, marketing, partner recruiting, staffing has to have cost a bundle. But I’m assuming Google has calculated that they’ll get a good ROI based on all the new businesses that will sign up and become paying customers.