North Carolina business recruiters and politicians offered little to explain why Apple announced Thursday it was bypassing the state and instead choosing Texas as the site for thousands of new technology jobs.
Apple said it plans to build a new campus in Austin with 5,000 jobs to start and the potential to grow to 15,000 employees. The maker of iPhones and other gadgets also announced plans to establish new sites in Seattle, and in San Diego and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years.
Apple also said it will add hundreds of jobs over the next three years in Pittsburgh; New York; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.
Earlier this year, as people familiar with recruitment efforts said Apple was strongly considering North Carolina for the new corporate campus, legislators lowered the threshold so-called “transformative” companies needed to meet to get massive state subsidies.
But Apple likely picked Austin over a potential Raleigh-area site and other possible contenders because its low cost-of-living and hip reputation makes it easier to recruit needed tech-savvy workers, said Tom Stringer, head of site selection for the business consulting firm BDO.
“It’s like very few other small locations that can replicate the connectivity, the hipness the opportunities of some of the large coastal cities,” Stringer said. “So, you get the workforce that you want, and the Research Triangle-area just has not done that yet. I think there are really some workforce and some lifestyle issues.”
The new Austin campus, with about 3 million square feet (nearly 280,000 square meters) of office space, will be about a mile from another large office that Apple opened five years ago. Apple currently employs about 6,200 workers in Austin, making it the company’s largest hub outside Silicon Valley even before the expansion.
House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, dismissed speculation that North Carolina could have missed out on the company because of a divisive political environment, including the controversy surrounding the state’s 2016 “bathroom bill,” which was partially repealed. Moore said Republican legislators, including Senate leader Phil Berger, and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper were unified in trying to land Apple’s campus.
The three leaders said in a joint statement that the state had added thousands of jobs this year, including the corporate headquarters of Advance Auto Parts to Raleigh and Honeywell to Charlotte.
“We’ll keep doing everything we can to bring more good jobs to North Carolina,” the statement said.
Neither Apple nor state business recruiters responded to requests for comment on the company’s decision to bypass North Carolina.
The Cupertino, California-based company said it’s currently expanding data centers in North Carolina and two other states. Server farms typically generate few jobs to follow heavy investment.