RALEIGH – For those of you wondering if and when Apple will announce a deal with North Carolina to build a new $600 million campus in Research Triangle Park, the wait may soon be over. What’s the hangup? Politics.

According to several sources familiar with the Apple-North Carolina talks, a deal is likely to be struck once the General Assembly ends its current session and heads home. The legislature could adjourn as soon as Friday.

“They are still talking. They are waiting for the legislature to go home,” one source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

However, nothing about the deal is certain, adding to the drama. Many sources who have talked with WRAL TechWire and WRAL have either stopped talking about the project or say they have heard nothing new.

Fear that the deal might still be blown up by a political issue or a “leak” to the news media remains very strong.

“They could still change their mind,” a source said of Apple’s leadership.

Sources have said that Apple has been reviewing state documents to seal the deal, and WRAL TechWire has been told  that Wake County also is talking an incentives deal with the tech giant.

But a person familiar with the negotiations said that deal backers have feared that the General Assembly could pass a bill “that messes things up” before the session ends.

Apple executives, like other business leaders, “want predictability,” another source said. “They want to mitigate their risks. Unpredictability drives them nuts.”

Another person said a deal might have been announced sooner but the negotiations “got caught up in the legislative process.”

Finger pointing

On the other hand, one could ask: If Apple is so worried about NC’s politics, why were they dealing with us in the first place?

It should be noted as well that the Republican-controlled legislature passed an incentives bill which fits the size of an Apple deal as previously reported by WRAL TechWire:

  • Total investment, $1.5 billion to $2 billion
  • Several thousand jobs, maybe as many as 10,000 over time, with most of those being added in the Triangle
  • A $600 million campus located in the southern (Wake County) portion of Research Triangle Park
  • A $900 million investment in its western North Carolina data center complex
  • An initial office opening in Cary

And there’s this item as reported by WRAL’s Travis Fain on May 16:

“WRAL News has also confirmed from four sources that Apple leadership canceled a meeting last month with [Gov. Roy] Cooper, who was in California for a multi-day trip. Cooper and company Chief Executive Tim Cook did meet Friday while Cook was in town to speak at Duke University’s commencement on [May 12]. Two government sources said the deal had been hammered out by then by high-ranking legislative officials.”

Other issues

Wrangling between Cooper and the Republican-led legislature later led to a budget veto and an ensuing override.

Other arguments over sensitive issues such as early voting and voter identification that have divided Cooper and Democrats from Republicans have apparently contributed to the uncertainty about the project, WRAL TechWire has been told.

A source said that Apple executives led by Cook and other executives with Triangle connections (Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who grew up in Raleigh, and Eddy Cue, a senior vice president who has a degree from Duke as does Cook) are concerned about politically sensitive issues such as transgender rights and the continuing fallout of the “bathroom bill” HB2. Although HB2 was repealed, a court fight resumed this week in federal court about the legislation that replaced it.

Cook also said at a conference earlier this week that he would continue to speak out on social issues, pointing out that he would avoid falling into  “the appalling silence of the good people category and this is something that I never want to be a part of.”

As for the project, in an interview released two weeks ago, Cook said he remains committed to expansion and more hiring at Apple.

“We’re going to create a new site, a new campus within the United States,” Cook said.

“We’re going to hire 20,000 people. We’re going to spend $30 billion in capital expenditure over the next several years. Number one, we’re investing, and investing a ton, in this country. We’re also going to buy some of our stock, as we view our stock as a good value.”

Picking North Carolina isn’t assured, however. The Triangle isn’t the only site believed to be under consideration for the Apple campus. Media reports have said Apple is mulling suburban Washington D.C. as a landing spot.

Then there is HQ2 …

As the Apple drama drags on, so does another.

North Carolina remains in the running for the $5 billion Amazon HQ2 project and its promised 50,000 jobs. No decision about which of the 20 metro areas listed by Amazon as finalists, including the Triangle, is expected in the near future.

Various media reports 10 days ago reported that Amazon was gathering additional information and updates from the finalists with a cut to be made to a handful of finalists within a “couple of months.”

So the wait continues for both projects, each labeled as “transformational.” But when might the transformation begin? That’s the $7 billion, 60,000 job question.