How Many Apples for $8.6 million?

Full week's work for City Council, including Apple incentives

How Many Apples for $8.6 million?

City Council has had a full public schedule this week, with work sessions on both Tuesday and Wednesday as well as Thurs­day's regularly scheduled meeting. Wed­nes­day's session was dedicated to the ongoing Austin Energy rate case, but Tuesday's was in principle open to discussion of the entire regular agenda, with a few lagniappes: 1) the recently received Charter Revision Com­mit­tee recommendations (and potential staff direction), 2) possible action on hiring a "consumer advocate" for the AE review (the draft ordinance also adopts a schedule concluding May 24 and directs the city manager to base the new rate schedule on 2011 data), and 3) notice (by Chris Riley) of an April 2 Austin visit by UCLA economist and parking guru Donald Shoup (author of The High Cost of Free Parking) – just as Down­town parking issues are expected to return to council.

Although Thursday's agenda formally ends following Bobby Whitlock's 5:30pm guest performance and a half-dozen proclamations, it's doubtful anybody at City Hall is making early dinner plans. There's a Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment briefing in the morning that could easily drag past Citi­zens Communication into the afternoon, a couple of returning Municipal Utility District proposals that didn't slide through on first round (expect more MUD-flinging), and 15 or so zoning cases that always threaten to derail the festivities.

Any one of these would normally be featured items, but the likely headliner this week is Item 89, the proposed economic development agreement with none other than Apple Inc., under which Apple plans to expand its North Austin campus with a new "Americas Operations Center" on West Parmer Lane, roughly doubling the company's current Austin workforce. The state has already offered $21 million from Rick Perry's Texas Enter­prise Fund; the city is being asked to contribute a 100% rebate of all city property taxes on all new construction or new machinery and equipment – estimated by city staff at $8.6 million over 14 years – in return for Apple investing $282.5 million in the project and creating 3,635 new, full-time jobs in addition to the 3,100 existing jobs. Council heard the basics last week at a specially called meeting and closely questioned staff and Apple reps about the scale of the company investment, the nature and permanence of the projected jobs (a majority expected to be local hires), and the company's willingness to work with local organizations on diversity in recruitment as well as construction job safety. (Travis County is also reported to be considering its own incentives.)

After factoring in related costs, city staff report a "net benefit" to Austin of $14.6 million over 15 years. Staff also told council last week that Austin is competing with Phoenix for the Apple facility, but in the days since, there have been reports out of Arizona that Phoenix is out of the running. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton told The Arizona Republic last week that "there was no Phoenix site reasonably in contention." Expect that question to arise Thursday as well as a simpler, more naive one: What does a company sitting on $100 billion in cash need with Austin's paltry $8.6 million?

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More City Council
Council and Advocates Balk at New Municipal Court Security Force
Council and Advocates Balk at New Municipal Court Security Force
Would a proposed a stand-alone City Marshal Office be unmarshaled?

Austin Sanders, Nov. 19, 2021

Council Makes Last-Minute Changes to $4.5 Billion Budget Plan
Council Makes Last-Minute Changes to $4.5 Billion Budget Plan
A budget is born

Austin Sanders, Aug. 13, 2021

More by Michael King
Dr. Van Boven Goes to the State's Highest Court
Dr. Van Boven Goes to the State's Highest Court
Beleaguered doctor appeals personally to clear his name

Sept. 29, 2021

Van Boven vs. the Texas Medical Board: Now At the State's Highest Court
Van Boven vs. the Texas Medical Board: Now At the State's Highest Court
Hearing latest step in doctor's lengthy fight

Sept. 28, 2021


City Council, Apple Inc.

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle