Gov. Roy Cooper says Apple still in ‘open negotiations’ with North Carolina

In the wake of Apple’s decision to hire thousands of new workers in Austin, Texas, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper still sounds hopeful that the California tech giant will create new jobs in his state.

On Tuesday, at a news conference in Charlotte, Cooper described the company as still being in negotiations with the state.

In response to a reporter’s question about why the state missed out on an Apple expansion, Cooper replied that “It is still open negotiations, and we are very positive about the potential there.” The comments came after the Charlotte-based tech firm AvidXchange promised to hire more than 1,200 new employees in that city in return for incentive money.

On Wednesday, Cooper repeated a similar message.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cooper declined to comment on Apple’s decision to add thousands of new jobs in Texas — but then added that he was not commenting because the state was in an “open recruiting situation” with Apple that could potentially yield more employment.

Neither Wake County nor the state’s Commerce Department has yet fulfilled a request for records on the recruitment of Apple or given a time frame for releasing the documents. Records are usually released after a project has been publicly announced or is no longer active. Commerce hasn’t responded to a question about whether the project remains active.

Last week, Apple announced that it would invest $1 billion to create a new campus in the Austin area, a city where it already employs 6,000 people. The company also said it would establish new sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California.

Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, were also identified as places Apple would add more employees over the next three years. No mention was made of Raleigh or Research Triangle Park, which at one time had been considered a strong contender for the campus.

The company did add a caveat in its announcement, saying there was the “potential for additional expansion elsewhere in the US over time,” though no specifics were given.

In a joint statement after the announcement, Senate leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County, House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County and Cooper said: “North Carolina is a great place for business and we have amazing success bringing quality jobs to our state, from corporate headquarters for Charlotte and Raleigh to advanced manufacturing jobs for places like Halifax and Scotland counties.

“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.”

One area where the company has been investing in the Tar Heel State is in data centers. For the past eight years, the company has slowly been expanding a large data center near Hickory in Catawba County.

Apple said it plans to invest $10 billion in data centers over the next five years, including $4.5 billion this year and next, adding that its existing data centers in “North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada are currently being expanded.”

Apple, which has purchased more than 200 additional acres of land in Catawba County, has two data centers planned in Catawba County — one $22 million project under construction now and another planned, The News & Observer has previously reported. Mick Berry, Catawba County manager, said that expansion was agreed to in 2017.

Apple is now Catawba County’s biggest tax contributor, making up more than 6 percent of the tax base, which is more than the top three other contributors combined, Berry said. Because of Apple, the county has also attracted other companies to build data centers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, and after Apple built a solar farm near its data center, the county saw an uptick in the development of solar farms in the county.

Berry said he’s hopeful Apple will keep announcing new expansions in the coming years.

“I hope so,” Berry said in a phone interview. “They have additional real estate and we are in regular conversation with them about things like infrastructure. We always want to be in their thought process.”

Charlotte Observer reporter Joe Marusak contributed