RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – North Carolina is locked in another bidding war for a high tech company, but this time the firm already has an established and fast growing presence.

Network Appliance currently is in negotiations with local and state officials for economic incentives to help underwrite expansion of its facility in RTP. Fallout is still in the air about the extent of incentives offered to lure a Google data center to Lenoir in western North Carolina with a legal fight looming.

Plus, the debate over incentives has been inflamed further by the latest round of cutbacks announced at Lenovo. Lenovo was promised millions in benefits to build its new headquarters in Morrisville, but those were contingent on creation of new jobs. Thus far, Lenovo has received no money, the company acknowledges, since it continues to cut headcount.

What makes the NetApp recruiting even more interesting is that the firm has already received incentives once, dating back to its 2004 decision to expand to RTP.

The Triangle Business Journal reported exclusively on NetApp’s possible expansion on Friday, and The News & Observer followed up with a report on Saturday.

The continuing boom in demand for data storage is fueling rapid growth at NetApp, which is based in California but now has some 675 employees. That’s far higher than the 300 or so workers NetApp said it would hire when it acquired three unfinished buildings from Cisco and received millions in incentives to built a data storage center.

Whether NetApp expands its presence locally with another 130,000 square foot building “could come down to local and state incentives,” TBJ reported.

Ken Hibbard, vice president of east coast operations for NetApp, told The N&O that incentives would be important on considering where to locate its new operation. NetApp aslo is considering sites in Pennsylvania and Washington state.

"It’s not the sole consideration, but it is a factor," Hibbard told The N&O about incentives.

Other factors include availability of workers, whether the region is appealing enough to assist in recruiting of workers, and the cost of electricity. Data centers are electricity gluttons.

Don’t be surprised if incentive critics aren’t quick to complain about whatever deal NetApp tries to negotiate. But as Google demonstrated in Lenoir and in negotiations with South Carolina for a center there, companies are in control when it comes to job expansion.

North Carolina isn’t batting 1.000 in the industrial recruiting game, having lost out to Mississippi for a Toyota plant and a recent GE expansion that stayed in Pennsylvania.

NetApp no doubt will drive a hard bargain. Will N.C. step up to the plate? The guess here is that yes it will. NetApp is already here, is hiring people at a rapid rate and has already demonstrated a strong commitment to the area.

Interestingly, Cisco, which sold the three buildings to NetApp, is in expansion mode, too. But take note: Cisco is adding those buildings in Silicon Valley.