AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin City Council approved an economic incentive of $8.6 million for the Apple corporation to expand its presence in the city over the next decade.
The decision was unanimous. Apple must now make the official decision to accept the money and move forward with the project. Travis Count Commissioners will weigh an additional $6 million incentive for the company in Tuesday.
Apple has operated out of a Northwest Austin campus for two decades with about 3,100 workers, but now it wants to build a new facility in the same area to add more than 3,600 other positions.
As Apple considers other locations in the nation like Phoenix, the idea of economic incentives have materialized in recent weeks. The state would give $21 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, Travis County is considering $6 million in real estate abatements, and the City of Austin would give $8.6 million in tax abatements.
The grand total of $36.5 million has brought criticism, as Apple reportedly has $100 billion cash on hand.
"If they can do it on their own without receiving that assistance, I'm all for it," mayoral candidate Clay Dafoe told the council before the 6-0 vote was cast. "I don't think though that this resolution brings equity to our taxpayers here in Austin."
"There's absolutely no reason for Austin, a city with a myriad of budgetary issues to even consider handing out money to any private corporation," said another speaker.
Apple does have to hold up its end of the bargain - its own investment of more than $280 million over the next decade for a new facility and related costs.
A presentation before the Council last week estimated the endeavor would bring millions back to the city over the course of a decade. Supporters also point to economic benefits businesses might see.
"Sure, why not?" said Robyn Williams, who lives near the current campus. "It gives them an opportunity to build jobs for us and help our local economy."
"I think it will benefit many local businesses large and small, including retailers, restaurants, local artisans," said a representative of Opportunity Austin at City Hall.
The hearing brought dozens to speak up about the project. Perhaps the most prominent were representatives of the Workers Defense Fund. With several donning orange hard hats, they spoke of construction worker pay and work site safety.
The group spoke of its work with Councilman Mike Martinez to introduce an amendment that would certify Apple as a "premier community builder."
"(It) will exapnd safety protections and training to avoid injuries and death; ensure that workers earn a living wage so that they can provide for their families; and monitor the constriction project from start to finish to ensure compliance with the law and WDP standards," the group said in a statement.
Transportation officials from Capital Metro were also on hand. There has been talk of a bus stop to help accommodate Apple's workforce.
Travis County commissioners are expected to take up its part of the incentives next Tuesday, waiting to see what the city does first. Some on the commission have said Apple would probably move to Austin with or without the money.
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