EMC Corp., the maker of data-storage computers, announced Thursday that it plans to expand its Triangle operations and add nearly 400 high-paying jobs.
The investment is the latest sign that the recession has made this region, with its abundance of skilled workers and competitive cost of doing business, even more attractive to some employers.
EMC will build a $280 million data center in Durham County, and add workers at an existing research facility in Research Triangle Park and a manufacturing plant in Apex.
The Massachusetts company becomes the second high-profile business to pick the Triangle over other areas. Last month, a division of financial services giant Deutsche Bank announced it would create more than 300 technology jobs in Cary over the next five years that would pay an annual average wage of $88,213.
EMC's 397 new jobs, 292 of which are expected to be at the data center in Durham, will pay average annual salaries of $73,325. That's $16,000 above the annual average in Durham and $30,000 more than the average in Wake.
"What is really driving this area is the search for talent and people trying to find the knowledge workers," said Charles Hayes, CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, which recruits businesses to the region. "If you look at the average wages that Deutsche Bank and EMC are paying, these are obviously knowledge workers."
The projects also demonstrate officials' willingness to provide incentives to lure employers here. Deutsche Bank received $9.4 million in state incentives, and EMC could get $7.4 million from the state and more than $1 million from Durham County and the city of Durham.
Duke Energy and EMC are working out details that will result a price break for EMC on electricity, but the contract hasn't been signed.
EMC was considering expansion in New York, Washington, Canada and Virginia.
Bob Hawkins, vice president of North Carolina operations for EMC, said the expansion is part of a company-wide restructuring effort that is designed to reduce expenses and streamline operations.
He pointed to a number of reasons the Triangle was selected: its skilled work force, cheap electricity, a competitive incentives package and the company's presence in the area already.
EMC employs 914 in the state, with 750 of those in the Triangle. The RTP facility opened in 1977 and the Apex plant in 1981. Both were originally part of Data General, which EMC acquired in 1999.
The company will have to meet hiring goals and keep its existing jobs in North Carolina to receive the full value of the state and local grants.
Hawkins said EMC is scouting out possible locations for the data center now. The company hopes to begin adding jobs after it opens the data center toward the end of 2010.
The state approved its incentives package for EMC on Thursday. Durham city and county officials will vote on their separate incentives in the coming weeks. The project is contingent on approval of the local incentives.
Although the EMC and Deutsche Bank announcements are promising signs for the local economy, they are a drop in the bucket compared to the jobs shed during this recession.
Joblessness in the Raleigh-Durham area stood at 8.3 percent in July, and industries such as construction remain severely depressed.
Katharine Neal, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Commerce, said the department has been getting more calls from companies interested in new economic development projects or restarting ones that had been delayed because of the down economy.
To offset continuing job losses, a critical mass of companies will need to feel secure enough to expand or seek out lower-cost locations. Hayes said the recession hasn't reduced the number of companies that have contacted the partnership and expressed interest in moving to or expanding in the Triangle.
"If you just looked at our book of business and that's the only indices you had, you wouldn't know we're in a recession," he said.
Staff writer John Murawski contributed to this report.
david.bracken@newsobserver .com or 919-829-4548