Members of the Travis County Commission, in Travis County, Texas, approved Apple’s new Austin Campus after a minimum salary requirement was added, and signed off on $5.4 million in tax rebates. The project gained the nods of the commission last Tuesday in a 4-1 vote. It is believed that the deal will generate $15 million in benefits for the county over its 15-year contract with the company.
Ins and Outs of the Deal
Local officials were initially aggressive in encouraging Apple to build their headquarters in Austin when the company was looking for a potential location for their facility. In fact, the Austin City Council has approved its own $8.6 million grant, while the state will offer $21 million in incentives through the Texas Enterprise Fund.
But the deal almost collapsed last week, as the Travis County Commission remained undecided on its own incentives that are tied to the project. The lone commissioner who was against the deal, Sarah Eckhardt, stated that she was “disheartened” that the deal wasn’t able to establish strong enough requirements for Apple to hire Travis County residents. And since requirements for economically disadvantaged people were dropped, she opposed the approval.
In addition, she questioned Apple’s need for additional tax rebates from Texas—one of the lowest taxing states in the US—when a New York Times articles reported that Apple often works in low-tax countries and states, and pays an effective tax rate of less than 10%. The company’s local and state governmental affairs manager Jason Lundgaard replied that he was not qualified to comment on the company’s tax structure.
On the other hand, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said that he is willing to take the company’s word that it would still hire economically disadvantaged people, even though it is not stated in the contract.
The commissioners approved the deal in principle on April 17, but it was withdrawn on April 24 when former county judge Bill Aleshire and developer Ed Wendler pointed out the weak points of the contract. Thus, the Cupertino-based company became frustrated by the county’s continuing deliberation and calls for new conditions on the deal.
Apple is planning to build a facility in North Austin, where 3,665 new jobs will be created 13 years from now. It was reported that the company is required to compensate the bottom 10% of its workers with an average salary of $35,000, while contractors should get a minimum of $11 per hour.