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After Apple picked Austin, NC sweetened its offer to the company, records show

·4 min read

Three years ago, it appeared Apple had passed over the Triangle when it announced it would build a new research campus in Texas. But recruiters in North Carolina didn’t see it that way.

They kept pursuing the company, increasing their incentives package by $80 million. In the end, they landed about 2,000 fewer jobs from Apple than they had hoped for in 2018, but with higher average salaries, according to emails and memos released Tuesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

The department released hundreds of pages of documents that describe in detail the economic incentive package that persuaded Apple to establish a campus in Research Triangle Park and expand its data center in Catawba County.

For more than two years, The News & Observer and other media outlets have sought records related to the state’s recruitment of Apple. Officials from the governor’s office and the Commerce Department repeatedly declined, saying that the wooing of Apple remained an “open” project.

NC’s first incentive offer to Apple

North Carolina was recruiting Apple in early 2018. At the time, the state offered an incentive package worth $762 million in hopes of landing 5,000 jobs, a new $500 million Wake County campus and $1.5 billion in capital spending at Apple’s existing data center in Catawba County.

Apple announced that it would expand in Austin, Texas.

This year, North Carolina offered the company a jobs grant worth $845.8 million over 39 years. For that, Apple agreed to invest $1 billion in North Carolina over 10 years, including $552 million to establish a campus in RTP where it will create at least 3,000 jobs. The company says it will spend another $448 million expanding its data center in Catawba County but not create new jobs there.

Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican leaders of the General Assembly together announced Apple’s decision outside the Executive Mansion in April. The state’s incentives come to about $310,000 for each job the company plans to create, starting in 2023, according to the documents.

In 2018, Apple considered creating a research and development hub with computer software and hardware engineers, as well as a “customer service center.” The average annual wages would have been $120,339, according to a memo from state Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland in April of that year.

This year, Apple said the workers at RTP would be involved in “machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering and other related fields,” with an average salary of $187,000 a year.

Memo suggests 10,000 jobs were possible

The effort to persuade Apple to come to the Triangle had a code name: Project Bear.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a nonprofit public-private organization that recruits companies for the state under contract with the Commerce Department, also released hundreds of pages of documents about the Apple deal on Tuesday.

Apple may have considered bringing as many as 10,000 jobs to North Carolina in early 2018, according to an email from Garrett Wyckoff, the partnership’s senior manager for business recruitment. By March of that year, the company had reduced the number to 5,000, according to an email from an attorney representing the company.

“Apple Inc. is hoping to announce a new campus in the United States by June 1, 2018,” according to a memo the attorney sent to recruiters. “Apple is considering North Carolina as a potential site for the new campus. The company would commit to creating jobs for a minimum of 5,000 R&D and Operations workers and would make a minimum investment of at least $2 billion throughout the State of North Carolina over a 10-year period.”

A memo Wyckoff wrote in April said Apple was also considering expanding at its existing campuses in Austin and Cupertino, California. In December 2018, Apple announced it would build a $1 billion facility in North Austin, Texas. An email indicates that the state Commerce Department learned of the decision from the Reuters news service.

The state Commerce Department continued refusing to release information about its efforts to win over Apple, saying it did not think the company’s decision to build in Texas ended the matter.

“We are not aware that the business has made a final decision regarding a potential expansion in North Carolina,” spokesman David Rhodes wrote in an email in June 2019. “The project remains active.”

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