RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Want to talk about the possibility of Apple coming to the Triangle? “Shut up,” comes the reply. Time after time. Or words to that effect.

How about Amazon HQ2?

“Information about that is tighter than Dick’s hatband,” a source tells WRAL TechWire.

It’s as if Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos, captains of tech, have told their operations to rig for silent running. Turn on the cloaking devices. Turn off Siri and Alexa.

Yes, an eerie quiet has deepened over talk about Apple and Amazon choosing the Triangle area for projects:

  • A new Apple campus as well as expansion of its data center complex in western North Carolina.
  • The 50,000 job Amazon HQ2

It’s not spy craft. Not cloak and dagger. Not CIA vs. KGB. Not Game of Thrones intrigue.

Rather, it’s an intensifying high-stakes dance of cloak the secrets and leak the details with big stakes at risk.

Amazon’s HQ2 project is much bigger than Apple’s new campus project with five times as many jobs (50,000) and three times the expected investment ($5 billion). Yet Apple’s “brand” is seen by many in the Triangle tech community as one this region sorely needs to become an elite tech hub akin to the Valley (smaller, of course) or Boston or Amazon’s hometown of Seattle.

Why so quiet?

No one wants to blow up a deal.

The media have been filled with stories, special projects, in-depth analysis, and more about Amazon and Apple. It’s been a feeding frenzy at times.

[A personal note here: Even though I am nearly deaf and abhor taking my daily post-heart attack walks while wearing my hearing aids, I carry my smartphone so I don’t miss tips, calls or texts. I rely on my Fitbit to buzz an alert when a new message or call arrives. Ten days ago, I also worked four sources by phone from my car en route to the beach. No rest for the seekers of secrets …]

Transformative – or else

The results of this frenzy:

Anticipation. Excitement. Dread. Nervousness. Anger.

People have been talking about these deals that could remake – most say for the good, more than a few say for the worse – the face of the Triangle (“transformative” is the buzz word) for months now. A remarkable sign of the public interest is the fact that some 40,000 readers and viewers have participated in two online polls from WRAL TechWire and A huge majority want one or the other project – or both.

Yet talking the deal has become dangerous.

Not life and death. But jobs, jobs, jobs and $6.5 billion in investment at risk.

No one wants to anger Apple CEO Tim Cook and company to the point that they take their investment plans elsewhere. Cook has said Apple would not conduct a beauty contest as it searches for a new campus site.

As for Amazon – well, Jeff Bezos didn’t get to be the world’s richest man by putting his future plans on WikiLeaks. Amazon has been much more public in courting metro areas such as the Triangle for its project. But as for details – few, far between.

Right now, the most pressing topic in North Carolina is Apple.

At the moment, no one in the Triangle who is in the know of Apple’s thinking wants to be the source whose talk might lead to the “whale” – a term reserved for such big economic targets – choosing to avoid a carefully woven net of incentives dangled with bait of tax incentives and more.

“What’s up with Apple,” the media keep being asked, even by people in government and economic development who are out of the Apple abd Amazon loops.

The media are asking the same thing.

It’s become a circular dance of this and that, who said what and when, off the record or on, for background or not for attribution, who is leaking what to whom.

The Apple-and-Amazon Incident

Source: Pixabay

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk (William Shatner). Source: Pixabay

The media is hoping for a Star Trek (original) story line.

Normally, economic development deals are cloaked as well as a Romulan warbird. And, as you would expect, reporters are trying to find a Spock who can work with a Captain Kirk to ferret out the secrets of the Apple and Amazon negotiations – if not the holy grail: A copy of deal contents just as Kirk spirited off the cloaking device in “The Enterprise Incident.”

Fast forward 50 years – from 1968 to 2018: The cloak-and-leak Amazon and Apple game grows more intense.

As an Apple decision one way or the other nears, the murmurs have gone colder than deep space.

Meanwhile, the waiting game for HQ2 focuses on an expected “cut” to a final handful of sites from the current 20 finalists, which includes the Triangle. Amazon has yet to say anything more about a timeline toward a decision other than sticking to a sometime-in-2018 timeline.

Where is a Spock seducing the Romulan commander when the federation of media needs him?

You guessed it.

No one wants to blow up a deal.