RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – A senior executive tells The Skinny that he “may not want to get out of bed” after hearing about Apple’s decision to build a new $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas.

“That’s a monumental deal,” he declared.

But the Triangle as well as North Carolina shouldn’t give up hope that Apple won’t be expanding its presence in the state – at least right now.

The key words in the Apple announcement: There is “the potential for additional expansion elsewhere in the US over time.”

In fact, a source has told WRAL TechWire that Apple has continued to express very strong interest in a large piece of undeveloped land across the southern part of Research Triangle Park that stretches into Wake County.

So while the immediate gut reaction to Apple picking Austin for a project that sounds like a lot that many people believed was heading for RTP is disappointment – if not grief – there apparently is still hope.

Right now, North Carolina has gone 0-for-3 on 3 “A” list projects:

But for those who might despair there is still hope.

“Some may look at losing both Amazon and Apple means NC is losing its luster.  I disagree,” NC State economist Dr. Michael Walden said when asked for his reaction to the Apple news.

“Our job growth rate this year will be 30 percent faster than the nation’s,” he added.

“I expect the state’s business recruiting to still be robust.”

Economic development meetings

The state of North Carolina’s Economic Investment Committee has meetings scheduled today and Tuesday. In the past, meetings so close together indicate that some sort of deal may be announced.

Scott Levitan, CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation which runs RTP, would not comment about Apple’s decision.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s David Rhoades wouldn’t say anything other than: “We are aware of the media reports. We have nothing further to offer.”

However, no one has told any of WRAL’s reporters working on this story that Apple has said “no” to the state.

Wake County Economic Development also said recently that it continues to pursue projects that could produce more than 10,000 jobs and $3 billion in investment. No one would say if Apple is on that list. But it’s clear numerous projects, such as Pendo’s recent decision to add 600 jobs in Raleigh, likely mean growth will continue at a rapid clip with our without Apple.

Shaking off HQ2 rejection, Wake County eyes 10,000 jobs, 41 projects, $3B in investment

Closely held news

It must be noted that Amazon provided no head’s up about its decision to split HQ2 between suburban Washington, D.C. and New York City even though the Triangle was among the final 20 candidates.

Plus, Wake County Economic Development told TechWire that local officials were not informed of an Amazon project that was announced for Nashville at the same time as the HQ2 news.

And Triangle officials have warned that Apple is very tight lipped about any projects.

In fact, the first news about the Austin project came in a press release sent out very early Thursday by Apple.

Problems with North Carolina?

WRAL’s Travis Fain and Laura Leslie along with WRAL TechWire have reported consistently since early this year that North Carolina was talking a big deal with Apple. The Triangle Business Journal also has been very aggressive in its reporting about a NC-Apple deal

The project apparently has never been a smooth sail toward a close with sources saying political concerns such as about the legacy of House Bill 2 (“bathroom bill”) and issues such as voter ID raised hackles at Apple.

WRAL TechWire also has been told that there have been “some difficulties” in negotiating a deal for the RTP property.

In its news today, Apple also did not mention a possible expansion of its massive data center in western North Carolina. Yet that had been part of the deal that sources said Apple had discussed with the state:

  • $900 million for a campus in RTP
  • $500 million for expansion of the data operation
  • And another possible operation in Cary that would focus on customer support

So where do things stand at this point?

For the Triangle and North Carolina, the swallowing of another apparent strike out.

But one out doesn’t mean the development game is over.

Besides, economic development officials say plenty of projects continue to head to North Carolina. A recent revision in state tax incentives enables officials to offer more tax dollars for higher-paying jobs. And Forbes says NC is No. 1 for business.

So chances are pretty good the sun will still come up tomorrow. And most of us will have to get out of bed to go to work.