AUSTIN (KXAN) - Travis County commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve an incentive package worth up to $6.4 million to sweeten the pot for Apple Inc. to double its presence in Austin.
Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she was not convinced that the package included adequate safeguards that Apple would make hiring local workers a priority.
The agreement is expected to bring an additional 3,600 jobs over the next decade or so. The incentive agreement suggests that many of the hires -- most in the accounting and customer service areas of Apple's operation -- would be local hires.
Eckhardt's concern was not a deal breaker for others on the court. County Judge Sam Biscoe, for instance, acknowledged that the county, not unlike Apple, could "do a better job ourselves hiring locals."
Commissioner Ron Davis said he was satisfied that the company would put county residents, and especially those in impoverished areas, on its payroll if the expansion goes through.
"I will take Apple's word they will hire locally in impoverished communities where they can if those applicants have the proper skills set," Davis said.
The city of Austin has already signed off on an incentive plan, which includes another 1 million square feet of office space if Apple goes ahead with a proposal to expand its facility in Northwest Austin. The expanded location would serve as Apple's North American customer service operations center.
In March, the Austin City Council approved giving $8.6 million to Apple in incentives to expand its operations. With the approval of both city and county incentive packages, the state's guarantee of $21 million out of the Texas Enterprise Fund can now be met.
Apple met extensively with the community before the incentive package was presented, a fact that was often disguised on city and county agendas by calling it "Project Hudson." Capital Metro, for instance, plans to expand its service to the Apple facility in Northwest Austin to serve the thousands of employees and help alleviate extra traffic in the area which will surely accompany bringing more workers to that part of the city.
The bus stop at Research Boulevard is the closest one to Apple, and it is still about a mile away. There are 12 bus stops within a 1.5-mile walking distance of Apple. When it comes to MetroRail, the Howard Station is about four miles way, and the one at Kramer is about 4.5 miles away.
Austin has been in competition with Phoenix as a potential sites for Apple's Americas Operations Center. The center would be the hub for the company in the Americas that will be second in size only to the company's global offices in Cupertino, Calif.
Assuming Austin is selected, the new Apple hires would bring the number of employees for the popular high-tech company to 6,735 by 2023.
The new facility would built on 40 acres next to the existing Apple customer service center on Riata Vista Circle in North Austin, will be a million square feet of new space.
If the deal goes through, Apple could break ground on the project in June, with the first phase of the project completed the following year.
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