Open Source: Apple mum on NC campus

Hey all. I’m Brian Gordon, tech writer for The News & Observer, and this is Open Source.

In April 2021, Apple announced its big plans for the Triangle. Over the next decade, the world’s wealthiest tech company pledged to invest $1 billion in the state, including more than $500 million to establish a campus in Research Triangle Park where it would create at least 3,000 new jobs.

Now 20 months later, the tech industry is in a different place. Big companies have cut staff, and last month, Business Insider reported Apple issued a near-total hiring freeze.

Employees’ preference for remote work has also led business leaders to rethink physical campuses: This summer, the health care company Centene pulled out of its $1 billion/3,000+ jobs commitment with North Carolina, which had included a new East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, citing the popularity of remote work.

So, it seems like a good time to check in on Apple’s local plans. Plus, a lot of people have been asking me about it.

First, it’s good to know that the company already has a physical presence here. It’s begun leasing a seven-story office building on MetLife’s technology campus in Cary as it waits for a permanent campus. An Apple sign is in front of the building and everything. During my recent visit to MetLife, I saw Apple employees coming and going.

Apple is leasing a building on MetLife’s technology campus in Cary, NC.
Apple is leasing a building on MetLife’s technology campus in Cary, NC.

It’s also pretty clear that Apple wants staff to be in-person, which suggests the company will continue to value physical campuses. Its Triangle campus will reportedly cover 1 million square feet on the Wake County side of RTP, near Cary and Morrisville.

But when will this campus arrive?

Apple is known for being guarded, and my latest inquiry about campus construction didn’t yield the most illuminating response. An Apple spokesperson, who requested to speak on background, said the company has nothing to add beyond its April 2021 press release that includes two paragraphs — but no dates — on its North Carolina project.

“Apple has not released a construction timeline for its new RTP campus at this time,” emailed Wake County spokesperson Stacy Beard, while a spokesperson for the Research Triangle Foundation, which manages the surrounding 7,000-acre business community, gave a “no comment.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce said no modifications have been made to Apple’s incentive agreement with the state, which could end up giving Apple $1 billion in financial benefits.

While the timeline for this campus is unclear, there are explicit yearly job benchmarks Apple must hit to receive its state incentives.

Apple’s job targets in Research Triangle Park
Apple’s job targets in Research Triangle Park

The first benchmark is 126 new positions by the end of 2023. The pace of hiring will then accelerate. Apple must also meet required investment minimums to stay in compliance.

So, to answer the question: Apple is already here to some degree. But when will Apple really arrive with a massive new campus? Let’s wait and see.

Fun fact: North Carolina’s years-long recruitment of Apple was nicknamed “Project Bear.”

Short Stuff: Three new job announcements

This week, North Carolina awarded companies three smaller incentive deals to create new jobs across the state:

  • Believer Meats, which grows meat in a lab(!), is coming to the city of Wilson. New jobs promised: 100.

  • Alamance Foods is expanding its aerosol whipped cream product line in Burlington. New jobs promised: 135.

  • Sumitomo Forestry America, which makes house and wood products, is expanding in Randolph County. New jobs promised: 129.

Not a particularly fun fact: Historically, most of state incentive deals don’t complete. The originally promised level of jobs and investment are never achieved. Another reason to keep tabs on Apple.

National Tech Happenings

  • TikTok is wading through some hot water in the United States. Texas’ governor banned the social media app on all government devices, following South Dakota’s similar decision. Indiana sued TikTok twice this week over its influence on young users. The company’s prospective national security deal with the U.S. government has also hit roadblocks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Twitter will reportedly charge more for Blue verification subscriptions purchased through Apple’s iOS system due to Apple’s 30% App Store fees. This echoes the legal battle between Apple and Cary-based Epic Games.

  • NBC reports Chinese hackers stole millions in U.S. COVID-era relief.

Podcast Pick of the Week

Biographer Walter Isaacson spoke with NPR’s Terry Gross about the life, work and death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Both the interview and Isaacson’s biography were released weeks after Jobs’ death in 2011.

Thanks for reading, and try to visit Moore County some time soon. Residents are getting back on their feet after two local electric substations were attacked.

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.

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