Williamson County approves development agreement with Apple

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

GEORGETOWN — Williamson County made it official Tuesday, voting unanimously to approve the economic development agreement with Apple that bring a new campus to the county.

In exchange for reimbursing Apple 65 percent of its paid property taxes to the county over 15 years, the company will spend a minimum of $400 million on land and development, and create a minimum of 4,000 jobs.

“The company agrees to spend at least $400 million on land and development for a new Apple campus in Williamson County,” said Ben White with the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership. “They agree that the base value of this property will be $50 million.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Valeri Covey estimated that even with the reimbursement of the 65 percent in property taxes paid by Apple, the County would see an increase of $7 million in revenue.

The increased tax revenues would also be seen by other taxing entities, including Round Rock ISD and Austin Community College.

“That’s money that we don’t have right now, that we would need for the improvements and the other things that will come about,” she said. “I’ve heard from some of my folks, asking why would we want to give money to a corporation that is quite large and very profitable already? What wouldn’t be good is if it went right across the county line into Travis, yet we had all the people and everything else but no tax revenue to help us with those issues.”

The required number of jobs created is a baseline, to be built in at a minimum of 600 jobs over the first 12 years of the agreement.

“We think those numbers are probably going to go higher, but before you in the 381 (economic development agreement) is the $400 million capital investment and 4,000 jobs,” White said. “These are not jobs that were done 50 years ago, these are jobs of today and will be progressing through tomorrow.”

The county is protected through clawback provisions in the 381 agreement should Apple fail to fulfill any of those requirements of the agreement.

The benefits to the county in terms of tax revenues from Apple as well as new jobs was not the only advantage cited.

“This does not include the multiplier effect of other businesses being able to locate here,” White said. “We are all going to benefit from this, we are all going to be able to grow, we’re all going to be able to expand.”

Representatives from Apple were pleased with the agreement and the new location.

“For 26 years Apple and Austin have been closely linked, so it felt totally natural that we would continue to grow here in the Lone Star State, and put down even deeper roots,” said Tony Ross, who manages Apple operations for North and South America. “Our long term plans are to invest $1 billion and build approximately 3 million square feet of space on 133 acres.”

Ross said the plan is to employ 5,000 on the new campus, with the potential to grow to 15,000 new employees once completed. Jobs on the campus will be in engineering, research and development, operations, finance, sales and customer care. The 133-acre campus will include 50 acres of open space and use 100 percent renewable energy.

The campus will be located on Parmer Lane across from Dallas Drive.

Traffic issues and transportation concerns did come up, and Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long, who made the motion to approve the agreement, said those issues were already being addressed.

“A good portion of Parmer Lane in Williamson County I drive daily, and it has come to our attention, many years ago, and is already incorporated as a roadway for improvement in Williamson County’s long-term transportation plan,” Long said. “We identified that corridor a number of years ago as one that needs substantial improvements and that plan was accelerated as these discussions began to take place, and just in the last few days I secured commitments from the Governor’s Office, from TxDOT, from the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, from the City of Austin, Cap Metro, from Opportunity Austin and from Apple to work together on dramatic improvements to Parmer Lane.”

One hope for the new development is that the new jobs will make it possible for Williamson County residents to work locally rather than commuting to Travis County, said Pct. 1 Commissioner Terry Cook.

Under the direction of the Williamson County Commissioners Court, the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership was formed four years ago and played a key role in negotiating this agreement and bringing many local entities together.

“Four years later, you are landing probably the best economic development project in the United States this year,” White said. “It is truly great to see how the communities worked together with the county to get to this day. I work for Cedar Park, and not for Williamson County, but as we all know, as one community grows, we all win. This is a truly great day for Williamson County. We really do appreciate the work with Opportunity Austin. The Governor’s office has been tremendous in this process as well as the leadership in this state.”

The partnership has been something Liberty Hill has been an active participant in, and Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Lance Dean said this agreement will benefit this area as well.

“With any large employer, it is going to have an impact on housing, but also services like vendors and suppliers are most likely going to be drawn here as well,” he said. “So the ancillary benefits will be attractive to us as well. This is going to be positive for the region and the county.”

The Apple agreement shows that the county’s Economic Development Partnership is a beneficial tool for local cities.

“This is definitely a good win for the EDP to show the benefit and also the foresight of the Commissioners to establish it,” Dean said. “Something that has always impressed me is how well all the economic developers in the county get along. It is a good group to be around.”

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