NC lawmakers propose business incentive changes as Apple considers major investment in Catawba County

(Ben Williamson/WBTV)
(Ben Williamson/WBTV)
(Ben Williamson/WBTV)
(Ben Williamson/WBTV)

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Legislative leaders are preparing to announce changes to the state laws designed to provide incentives for companies who locate major projects in North Carolina on Thursday, as negotiations continue to land massive new investment from Apple.

Internal legislative documents obtained by WBTV ahead of the official announcement set for Thursday morning show the company would locate a new research and development facility in Research Triangle Park near Raleigh and expand its presence "in and around an existing site."

"The company would commit to creating jobs for a minimum of 5,000 R&D and Operations workers and would make a minimum investment of at least $2 billion throughout the state of North Carolina over a 10-year period," the documents say.

The documents obtained by WBTV do not name a specific company, but multiple sources with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations confirm the new proposal comes as top leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly continue negotiations with Apple, which currently operates a data center in Catawba County, to land the new investment.

According to the documents, a bulk of $1.5 billion would be spent at the company's existing facility in Catawba County.

"So, the announcement this morning, even though I love that Apple is spending more money here, it is the peripheral benefit that we will see down the road," said Hank Eimer, owner and broker in charge at Coldwell Banker Boyd and Hassell Realtors in Catawba County.

Eimer has no knowledge of what the expansion or investment would look like, but believes it will improve the housing market.

"It can help with confidence of buyers. Individuals look at how their investment is going to lie," said Eimer.

He also believes with Apple's possible investment, other companies may use it as a blueprint when looking to come to Catawba County.

"They will look at this research and incentives, and the different benefits of being in this area. That will bring them to us as well," said Eimer.

Several people that live near the plant say they have been approached by Apple to gauge their interest in selling.

"I don't want to sell my home and I told them that. I might later but not now," said Lee Gilbert, who was contacted by Apple.

In order to land the massive new investment, lawmakers are preparing to introduce language in this year's budget that would modify the current state incentives package.

"We want to make sure when these large, transformative projects come along, we're in the game," Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday morning.

Specifically, lawmakers are preparing to change the definition of a 'transformative project' for the purposes of a Jobs Development Investment gr ant.

"The transformative projects are critical across a lot of sectors." Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said.

Currently, the law defines a transformative project as one in which a business invests at least $4 billion dollars in private funds and creates at least 5,000 jobs. The new proposal that will be announced by lawmakers Thursday morning would change that to a private investment of $1 billion dollars and create at least 3,000 jobs.

"This is something that would apply across the board and be a compliment to the business climate in North Carolina," Berger said.

Under the terms of the proposed legislation obtained by WBTV ahead of Thursday's announcement, the company would not be able to count employees hired using H-1B visas, which are commonly used by technology companies to lure international workers with high-tech skills.

Details of the specific schedule of tax incentives proposed for this project were first reported by WRAL on Wednesday.

A second change in the proposed legislation would allow up to 10 percent of the annual JDIG incentive to be paid to utility companies connected to the project.

"As we do on many economic development efforts, the Governor's office worked closely with the legislature and other interested parties on this change that can help bring even more jobs to North Carolina," Governor Roy Cooper's office said. "We believe this is important enough to be voted on as a standalone measure."

"The company believes that directing a portion of the JDIG to the utility account for the duration of the incentives will make this project truly transformative," the internal legislative document argues. "It will guarantee that the entire state benefits from this project."

While specific details were not available outlining how Apple would invest $1 billion or more at its existing facility in Catawba County, the documents outline some specifics of the planned new research and development campus Apple would open in RTP.

The RTP campus would employ a minimum of 5,000 R&D and Operations workers, the documents say, who would make an average salary of $125,000.

"North Carolina gets a visited a lot by a lot of companies from around the world because North Carolina is a great place to do business," Moore said.

Stay with WBTV for continuing coverage of the announcement from legislative leaders regarding efforts to lure Apple and the potential investment in Catawba County.

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