One More Thing…

Half an hour northwest of Raleigh, past Cary and through the town of Morrisville, there’s not much to see on the four-lane stretch of Davis Drive north of the Wegman’s. There are some retail plazas and a few housing developments, but once you leave the town limits, it’s nothing but trees and scrubby underbrush.

Half a mile up, hanging a left at the traffic light onto Little Drive doesn’t change the scenery much, but there are a few more clues. There’s a seemingly riderless bike path running parallel to the road, and for the next mile and a half there are a few crosswalks which look like nobody ever uses — or would ever really need to.

Right now the place looks deserted. But all that’s about to change.

The 281-acres bordered by Little Drive on the south, Louis Stephens Drive on the west, Davis Drive on the east, and Lake Betz, Kit Creek and Holt’s Pond to the north — four miles all the way around — will be the site of Apple’s newest corporate campus and its first on the East Coast.

The new campus will sit on the southern end of the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park (RTP), which lies at the nexus of North Carolina’s three great research universities* — NC State in Raleigh, Duke in Durham, and UNC Chapel Hill — and what gives the area its name. More than 300 companies have facilities in the park, including Cisco Systems, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Biogen, Lenovo, SAS Institute, and RTI International.

Apple will invest over $1 billion in the Tar Heel State, creating at least 3,000 new jobs — with average salaries approaching $200,000 after three years — in machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and other cutting-edge fields. The company will also establish a $100 million fund to support schools and communities in North Carolina’s 80 poorest counties and dedicate another $110 million for infrastructure projects, including broadband.

“As a North Carolina native, I’m thrilled Apple is expanding and creating new long-term job opportunities in the community I grew up in,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re proud that this new investment will also be supporting education and critical infrastructure projects across the state.”

Williams grew up in Raleigh and attended Sanderson High School, NC State, and received his MBA from Duke University. Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer, also earned his MBA from Duke University, graduating as a Fuqua Scholar in 1988. Cook was elected to Duke University’s Board of Trustees in 2015.

This project is estimated to grow North Carolina’s economy by nearly $80 billion over the next four decades and the 3,000 new jobs will generate $2 billion in state tax revenue, said the Department of Commerce in a press release.

On June 30, senior reporter Lauren Ohnesorge, in an exclusive to the Triangle Business Journal, broke the news that Apple has submitted initial site development plans with Wake County. A 41-acre footprint off Louis Stephens Drive will cover more than 2.7 million square feet and contain three office buildings (the largest at around 242,000 square feet and the other two measuring just over 230,000 square feet each), three accessory buildings, and a parking garage. All three office buildings will have heights of 73 feet.

“At full buildout, Apple’s Research Triangle Park campus is likely to become one of the company’s largest employment centers in the United States after its Silicon Valley headquarters area and a major existing campus in Austin, Texas, that is itself seeing significant investment and expansion,” observed a June 30 post on the blog MacRumors.

The tech giant first announced the expansion in 2021 as part of an acceleration of its domestic investments, with plans to make new contributions of more than $430 billion and add 20,000 new jobs across the country.

According to a 2022 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple had approximately 164,000 full-time equivalent employees as of the end of that September. This figure does not include the many jobs that Apple is responsible for creating and supporting (at more than 2.4 million in the summer of 2019), such as those in the booming “app economy.”

Apple is the most valuable company in the world, now worth over $3 trillion in terms of market capitalization. That’s more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 97% of the planet’s 195 nations, according to the most recent data from the World Bank, and roughly four times North Carolina’s  $730 billion GDP.

“…Apple’s promise of starting on its RTP campus could not have come at a better time,” says Sougata Mukherjee, the Triangle Business Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, in a July 6 editorial. “For a while, it looked iffy that Apple’s plans to expand beyond its Austin, Texas, facility would actually happen. Now, it looks like it will and time is working in favor of everyone in the Triangle hoping to see big things out of the California-based tech giant.”

In a June 26 article, Ms. Ohnesorge provides some insight on what the RTP might expect when Apple breaks ground:

“For hints at what could happen at Apple’s upcoming campus in Research Triangle Park, one can look at Austin, Texas, where the iPhone maker has disclosed multiple investments that have helped attract additional mega-projects.

Ari Rastegar, founder and CEO of Rastegar Property Company in Austin, has had a front row seat to Apple’s buildout in Texas – the one North Carolina was in the running for long before the RTP announcement. Rastegar said having Apple in Austin has created a “gravity that makes people want to live there, makes businesses want to relocate.”

For the last decade, North Carolina has led the way in pro-growth, pro-business economic policies (such as modernizing and lowering the individual income tax, phasing out the corporate income tax, and enacting substantive regulatory reform) which have continued to make our state the Number One State for Business yet again.

*Rated “R1” (doctoral universities with very high research activity) by the American Council on Education’s Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

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