RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As tech giant Apple discloses its latest corporate earnings this afternoon, a bigger question in North Carolina is: Will Apple finally announce a multi-billion-dollar expansion and as many as 10,000 jobs in the state?

Another increasingly common question is: Has North Carolina for some reason – or reasons – lost the project just as it did the new Army headquarters that is going to Austin, Texas, rather than the Triangle?

A month ago, sources were convinced that the Triangle was strongly in the running to win two of three “A”-list projects with a chance to sweep all three:

  • The Army HQ, which appeared to be coming to N.C. State’s Centennial Campus.

A senior executive well briefed on the project who would only speak on the condition of anonymity says he was told the announcement about Raleigh was coming at any time. The next thing the exec heard was the Army declaring Austin the winner.

  • The Apple project, which multiple sources have said was expected to be announced in June.

The timeline was changed, sources inside and outside government saying that the General Assembly needed to end its session, thus ensuring politics would not interfere at the last moment. The GA later left Raleigh, an incentives package said to have been designed to lure Apple still in place. Law makers did return for a brief session regarding constitutional amendments, and left again. Still, no word.

According to government sources, Apple’s plans include a new campus in southern Research Triangle Park and nearby Wake County, an office in Cary and a big expansion of its data center operations in western North Carolina. Total price tag: Well over $2 billion.

“There’s nothing I know of that the General Assembly needs to do,” WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie says. “They’ve put it in the hands of Commerce and the governor at this point.”

Contacted late last week about the status of the Apple and Amazon projects, the N.C. Department of Commerce declined comment. So did representatives of the GOP.

In his most recent comments about Amazon and other projects, Gov. Roy Cooper had little to say, especially about Apple.

“Well, the Amazon one has been public,” Cooper told WRAL’s Leslie two weeks ago. He did say the state is in the running for other projects, although he offered no specifics.

“Other technology companies that are out there looking at North Carolina – those are not public,” Cooper said. “But I will say that we work very hard to attract good companies to North Carolina with good-paying jobs, and I’m hopeful that some announcements will be made soon.”

“How soon?” Leslie asked.

“We don’t know,” Cooper replied.

  • Then there is the biggest “A” of all – Amazon.

Its HQ2 project, with promises 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment, is still a possibility for the Triangle because Amazon has not yet cut down the list of 20 finalist metro areas that includes Raleigh-Durham.

What’s happened?

Coupled with the Army loss, the Apple delay is creating a growing sense of angst among multiple sources.

Has something has gone wrong?

That possibility can’t be ruled out.

One source well connected to the Apple process says there is a “technicality” that has brought the process to a standstill.

Secrecy has cloaked most of the the Apple and Amazon project discussion for months, but right now sources are left wondering.

“It is totally in the hands of Apple,” a perplexed executive who would be involved in any Apple project said Monday evening.

“Confused” is how another executive described the Apple status. “Everyone thinks it is a done deal. Why hasn’t it been announced?”

Cook’s commitment

Apple has operated more secretively than Amazon. Government and private sector bound by tight non-disclosure agreements. Some sources contacted by WRAL have said they can’t even disclose where they have signed an NDA.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, a Duke graduate, has said more than once that Apple’s selection process would be kept private and low key rather than Amazon’s high-profile HQ2 search. While Amazon went through a very public request-for-proposal process, drew nearly 240 responses and then unveiled a final 20, Apple has said nothing.

Cook recently reiterated his commitment to a new campus.

“We’re going to create a new site, a new campus within the United States,” Cook said in a video interview which Bloomberg TV released June 13.

“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.”

Is Cook still committed? That point could be made clear by what Apple discloses in its earnings this afternoon.

To this point, media reports have cited two possible Apple locations: North Carolina and suburban Washington, D.C.

If there is good news in this game of silence, it is that Apple has not told North Carolina it has scuttled the Triangle/western NC plan, sources say.

“I have heard nothing negative,” one executive who would be in the know says.

The opposite is also true.

He’s heard nothing positive, either.