Apple said Thursday it will build a new corporate campus in Austin, Texas, and add employees at “new sites” in several other cities.

However, no mention was made of adding jobs in North Carolina.

The company had been considering Research Triangle Park for a new campus, as well as an expansion of its data center complex in western North Carolina, according to several sources.

Some North Carolina officials said they were stunned by the news, while others were mum about the impact on North Carolina as a possible Apple destination.

“I am shocked,” Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said. “I thought Apple was coming to the Triangle, to Raleigh.

“Apple and the Triangle fit hand-in-glove,” he added, noting the region’s workforce and recognition as a tech hub.

State officials appear to have been blindsided by the news and were scrambling to determine precisely what went wrong. Many were unwilling to discuss the news for now.

“We are aware of the media reports. We have nothing further to offer,” said David Rhoades, spokesman for the state Department of Commerce.

Scott Levitan, chief executive of the Research Triangle Foundation, which operates RTP, also declined to comment, as did Beth Gargan, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who was at an economic development conference Thursday, said his administration is still trying to figure out what this means for any future announcements. He notes that the state has lost some projects but is still a destination for business projects.

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An announcement of an Apple expansion in North Carolina, which would have been worth well over $1 billion and created several thousand jobs, had been expected in June.

For the moment, the announcement is a big blow to North Carolina’s hopes for economic development linked to high tech. The Triangle also lost out on Amazon’s HQ2 project and its 50,000 jobs. RTP was among the 20 finalists, but Amazon chose to split HQ2 between suburban Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Raleigh also lost out on a new Army headquarters that could have been built on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. That project also is going to Austin.

Apple’s announcement surprised Mike Walden, an economist at N.C. State.

“But Austin is a major competitor, so losing to that area gives us some solace,” Walden said, adding that the decision likely came down to several “details.”

“Austin and the Triangle have similar characteristics,” he explained.  “So the decision may have come down to details like land costs, the specific location and proximity to amenities.”

The details

“Apple is proud to bring new investment, jobs and opportunity to cities across the United States and to significantly deepen our quarter-century partnership with the city and people of Austin,” Chief Executive Tim Cook said in the announcement early Thursday.

“Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or ZIP code, and, with this new expansion, we’re redoubling our commitment to cultivating the high-tech sector and workforce nationwide,” Cook added.

Apple said it will spend $1 billion the campus, which is close to its current operations in the Texas capital.

WRAL News had been told that a campus in RTP would be around that same dollar figure.

However, a graphic posted with Apple’s announcement about future job growth through 2022 shows minimal expansion in North Carolina beyond the workers already at the data campus.

Apple graphic

Where Apple will have employees by 2022.

Other new sites for Apple will be created in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, Calif., Apple said, while cities listed for expansion include Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colo.

Apple did note that there is “potential for additional expansion elsewhere in the US over time.”

The Austin additions

Apple’s plans for Austin sound very much like what sources had said was under consideration for RTP:

  • About 5,000 employees
  • Jobs such as engineering, research and development and customer support

The Austin campus will cover 133 acres and could eventually accommodate 15,000 employees, the tech giant said.

Apple was considering a larger site across undeveloped land that is part of RTP in Wake County, according to sources.

The company already employees more than 6,000 people in Austin, making it the largest campus outside of Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple photo

Apple’s current campus in Austin

Nathan Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas who studies economic incentives, said Austin’s existing relationship with Apple likely gave it a leg up in the process.

“Austin and the Research Triangle [region] both have a lot of similarities, and we are often in competition for the same investments. But I think [the fact] that Apple is already here, and seen as thriving, was a very big advantage for us,” Jensen said in an email.

Austin’s incentive package was likely “much, much smaller” than what North Carolina was offering to Apple, he said. A $25 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund and an incentive from Travis County were the only enticements on the table there, he said.

North Carolina lawmakers revamped the state’s incentives program last spring with Apple in mind, lowering the threshold for the richer “transformative project” grants to $1 billion in capital investment and 3,000 jobs.

Bad news for NC’s future?

The losing of the three “A” projects doesn’t mean North Carolina won’t still be on corporate expansion lists.

“Some may look at losing both Amazon and Apple means North Carolina is losing its luster. I disagree,” Walden said. “Our job growth rate this year will be 30 percent faster than the nation’s. I expect the state’s business recruiting to still be robust.”

Sources: Apple campus decision remains tied up in NC politics

State leaders agreed.

“North Carolina is a great place for business, and we have amazing success bringing quality jobs to our state,” Cooper, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement. “We’re on pace to add thousands of good-paying jobs this year, with more expected next year. There’s no better place to find a top-tier IT workforce, and legislative leaders have worked closely with the administration to attract large employers and technology companies like Apple. We’ll keep doing everything we can to bring more good jobs to North Carolina.”

To bolster that stance, Cooper announced a 500-job expansion by Sonic Automotive in Gaston County on Thursday afternoon.

“The thing that’s getting talked about now is the one that got away, right?” Moore added in an interview “But what about the 15 that we landed in the last two weeks? That would actually total up to more jobs than would have come in on this, so let’s don’t lose sight of that. North Carolina has a lot to be proud of.”

WRAL News reporters Travis Fain, Cullen Browder, Laura Leslie and Tyler Dukes and senior producer Matthew Burns contributed to this report.