Yesterday was a big one in North Carolina. We awoke to news that Apple is going to build a new campus in Wake County and then, in the afternoon, we learned, as expected, the state will get an additional Congressional seat. We increased our reputation as an economic and political powerhouse. Not only are the world’s top companies locating here, we now hold 16 electoral votes. Only seven states hold more.
The Apple announcement could be transformative. The tech giant is building a $1 billion campus and bringing 3,000 jobs. The average salary is a staggering $187,000 per year. We are about to have a lot more rich people in the state.
Republicans were crowing about their tax policies attracting Apple. While taxes may have played some role, it certainly wasn’t a major one. The state’s main competition was Ohio, which has no corporate income tax or personal property tax and a lower sales tax. And let’s be clear, if Roy Cooper had not gotten rid of HB-2, Apple would not be coming to North Carolina.
Apple came to North Carolina for a number of reasons. The state is on the move. It’s an attractive place to live with a top-notch university system and community college system. It’s centrally located with easy access to major East Coast cities without the cold and expense of New England or New York.
But, really, we offered the incentives to bring them to the state. Activists on the both the left and right oppose incentive packages, but when they work, they work. I’m no fan of giving corporations a bunch of money, but I’m also realistic about the world in which we live. The state gave them almost $850 million to locate here, putting conditions that required high paying jobs from the beginning. They incentives will almost certainly pay for themselves and the Apple campus could transform the state in the way IBM locating here in the 1960s put the Research Triangle Park on the map.
Apple becomes a draw in itself. Suppliers will follow. Other tech companies will look here when searching for new homes. We’re now in league with Silicon Valley, Austin, New York, Boston, and Seattle for being a tech hub. We have been a growing state. We’re about to become a wealthy one, too.
Apple will also probably accelerate our state’s shift from red to blue. The people coming to work for Apple will be educated, progressive, and diverse. As the Republican legislature looks to redistrict, they will have a harder time holding majorities as population centers start to dominate the political landscape. They may be able draw maps favorable to them now, but they will be much different by the end of the decade.
North Carolina is continuing to transform. We made a conscious decision to embrace a knowledge-based economy in the 1960s, building a world-class university system, a top-notch community college system, and a Research Triangle Park. We slowly moved from an agricultural and manufacturing economy to one that was more forward looking. Apple’s decision continues that path and with it, the realization that power and influence will continue to shift from small towns to big cities. The population will continue to grow along the I-85/I-40 corridor while the most rural areas will lose population. The political fight between those holding onto our traditional culture and those building new traditions will strain North Carolina for the foreseeable future. It’s part of growing and changing.