How will Apple’s North Carolina campus impact Wilmington?

Andrew Lemon, Interim News Editor

Near the end of April, it was announced that Apple will begin construction of a campus located on the Raleigh side of Research Triangle Park. Construction costs alone are expected to reach $1 billion, with the plan for the compound spanning over 1 million square feet according to the News and Observer

Apple stated in a news release related to the North Carolina expansion that their campus will eventually house a staff of 3,000 employees in technology-related fields such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and software engineering.

The Apple logo on a store in New York. (Laurenz Heymann/Unsplash)

In addition to the business generated by the new technological development hub, Apple has also made clear its intentions to invest directly in the state’s communities and infrastructure.

“Apple will also establish a $100 million fund to support schools and community initiatives in the greater Raleigh-Durham area and across the state, and will be contributing over $110 million in infrastructure spending to the 80 North Carolina counties with the greatest need, funds that will go toward broadband, roads, bridges and public schools,” said Apple in their news release. “When up and running, Apple’s investments are expected to generate over $1.5 billion in economic benefits annually for North Carolina.”

Adam Jones, associate professor and chair of UNC Wilmington’s (UNCW) Department of Economics and Finance, provided some insight as to why Apple would choose North Carolina for such a significant investment.

“One of the reasons they want to be here is because there’s a large and growing talent, especially of tech workers, and they’re trying to figure out how do we take advantage of other pools of talent all around the country,” said Jones. “So when you think of tech you tend to think of California, obviously, but we’re starting to see that growth in the Triangle area. It’s been coming for a while. We’re just hitting that tipping point where this sort of critical mass that results in projects such as this one.”

An aerial view of the Apple headquarters on April 28, 2017 in Cupertino, California. (Justin Sullivan/TNS)

Jones also pointed out that Apple choosing North Carolina may catch the attention of additional companies considering new locations to set up shop.

“If you’re a company that’s in Portland, or somewhere else off that way, you probably don’t know squat about North Carolina aside from maybe things you see on the news,” said Jones. “When you think about what that has been over the last several years, the big stories were things like H.B. 2, and some other things that might not be so flattering. So we could easily be classified as ‘oh that’s just the South, we’re not going there.’ Apple coming here sends a signal, like a stamp of approval that North Carolina is okay. Other companies will look at that and think if Apple is willing to go there, maybe we should take a look.”

As far as the impacts of the Apple campus on Wilmington and southeast North Carolina as a whole, Jones predicts that the region will see increased tourism as a result of the influx of employees, but not much economic spillover in other areas.

Beyond economics, Jones emphasized the importance of UNC Wilmington and other universities to seize the opportunity to build partnerships within the burgeoning technology sector in the Triangle.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here for the university. So our main mission is educating the taxpayers of North Carolina’s children,” said Jones. “Part of that is not in the classroom but in outside experiences and internships. We’ve got a bunch of programs going here in Wilmington that these companies would definitely be interested in, whether it be data science, business analytics or supply chain management.”