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Travis County greenlights revised deal for Austin expansion

updated 03:00 pm EDT, Tue May 1, 2012

Includes suggested salary protections, hiring deadlines

The Travis County Commissioners Court has voted in favor of a deal to bring a second Apple campus to Austin, Texas, the Austin-American Statesman reports. In the end commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the plan, which was recently amended to include stricter hiring requirements. The lone dissenter was Precinct 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who argued the deal should have stronger requirements to hire people from the county; she was also upset that requirements for the poor were dropped. Judge Sam Biscoe said he was willing to take Apple's word that it would hire the poor despite no contractual obligations.

An Apple representative, local and state governmental affairs manager Jason Lundgaard, spoke in public at the court for the first time today, insisting that the company still wouldn't give out demographic data about its current Austin campus. Questions directed at Lundgaard mostly came from Eckhardt, who also referred to a Sunday New York Times article, pointing out that Apple often pays an effective tax of less than 10 percent and frequently chooses low-tax countries and states, making it debatable that Apple would need tax rebates to come to a place like Texas, which is one of the lowest-taxed states in the US.

Lundgaard countered only by saying he wasn't qualified to comment on Apple tax structure, and remarking that a Travis County estimate called for the expansion to generate $15 million in benefits for the area for the duration of the 15-year contract. The county is set to spend between $5.4 million and $6.4 million during that timeframe, with another $21 million coming from the Texas Enterprise Fund, and the City of Austin issuing $8.6 million in rebates spread out over 10 years.

Under the revised Travis County contract, Apple will have to bring 3,665 new jobs to the area by the end of 2025, at least 300 of those arriving before 2017. The bottom 10 percent of Apple workers must have an average salary of at least $35,000, and contractors -- who may represent up to 25 percent of the new hires -- must be paid a minimum of $11 per hour. Another provision of the contract stipulates that Apple must build a $56.5 million, 200,000-square-foot office by December 2015. To qualify for the second half of rebates, Apple must build an 800,000-square-foot office valued at $226 million. Bonuses are in place if over 50 percent of workers are hired from the Travis area.

By Electronista Staff
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