Apple Is Coming to the Tar Heel State

By Matthew McMullan
Apr 26 2021 |
It takes a lot of work from design to production to make an iPhone. | Getty Images

North Carolina lands the tech titan’s big new campus — and the promise of 3,000 research and development jobs.

Apple – the company that brought you the iPod – has announced plans to open offices in Raleigh, N.C. that will support more than 3,000 jobs in areas like machine learning, artificial intelligence and software engineering.

The Wall Street Journal notes the company’s plans are in line with its pledge, first announced in 2018, to add 20,000 jobs to its American workforce, and that it’s part of a trend among the big tech companies of spreading out across the United States to advantage themselves of other pools of workforce talent. Google, Facebook and Tesla have opened up shop in Austin, Texas. Amazon’s HQ2 is now just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. There are a lot of smart people in Washington, DC.

And now Apple is expanding into the talent pool in Raleigh, which seems to be a natural fit – it’s a corner of the North Carolina research triangle, which is home to major universities and a growing number of big tech businesses. But the state government did a lot of work over a period of years to entice the company to the area, which already operates a data center elsewhere in North Carolina. The incentive package North Carolina is extending to Apple in return for its new campus and 3,000 jobs is substantial, and explained very well by the Raleigh News & Observer. The state’s Economic Investment Committee approved a grant of $845.8 million over a period of decades. That’s not Scott Walker and Foxconn money, but it’s still a lot.

There’s a reason states fight to land these kinds of projects. Three thousand new well-paying engineering jobs will ultimately pump more money into the state’s economy, the reasoning goes, and that will pay off in the long run by diversifying the larger economy as well: Apple’s presence in North Carolina will in turn create more jobs that will spring up to support it.

The next step, though, is to entice the actual production of Apple’s products back to the United States so that we can maximize the economic benefits of the entire industry Apple sits atop of. The wealth it creates currently accrues more with the people at the top of its value chain. Bringing back Apple’s production means more of Apple’s American-created wealth would be shared more equitably.

As a matter of fact: The Alliance for American Manufacturing podcast just featured an interview on this very subject with political economist Dan Breznitz, who just wrote a book about it. Breznitz told AAM President Scott Paul:

In the past if you had a new high-tech company such as Apple in California, it also meant it will produce its products either in California or nearby. … So the fruits of Apple’s success in innovation will translate to great jobs for all different kinds of skills and people in the United States. … (Today), you can just look at your iPhone on the back, (Apple) claims it’s designed in California and assembled in China, which is sort of a lie, because it’s really researched and developed in discreet stages throughout the world in multiple places, then the components are made in other places, and it’s then assembled in China and then sold all over the place.

What you have now is industries, from cars to semiconductors, that you can look at countries – United States, Korea, Taiwan, China, Israel, all of them have extremely successful semiconductor industries and even have the same companies working in them. But then you look at what those companies do in (each) locale and it’s completely different. And what has started to happen in the United States is we focus on the top high end. So we have the best new startups, but as soon as they design a product … they offshore the rest of production to other places, which have the innovation capabilities to excel in those stages.

Just think for a moment of the semiconductor industry. We are now asking Taiwanese companies … to come back to the United States and build production plants for us in Arizona. For we have lost the ability to not only to produce semiconductor but to innovate in production. So what happens now in the world is you have various stages of innovation and production – Silicon Valley is just one –  and places that have understood that in order to have a complete product you need to innovate in other stages, be it in design, be it in second-generation, be it in incremental, be it also in innovation and production. Other places, where most of our innovations are translated to great jobs and allow for economic growth.

Read more about Apple’s North Carolina here.