Commentary: Winston-Salem makes its case
To: Acting CEO Tim Cook of Apple Inc. and the Apple leadership team.
Re: Your new data center.
Dear Mr. Cook and company: Warmest regards from Northwest North Carolina and the Triad, where we’re enjoying the last days of spring and the sunny days and cool nights they bring to our rolling hills, forests and fields. As you talk with Gov. Bev Perdue about the best site in our state for your $1 billion data center, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you why that site can easily be found in our region.
We know your center could receive tax breaks worth $46 million from the state in the next 10 years, assuming you reach your $1 billion investment target within 9 years of starting. The trick is to find the site most conducive to success.
We’ve heard the speculation that the plant could likely go to the Catawba County area, particularly industrial parks in Newton or Hickory that are geared toward data centers. And Catawba’s jobless rate was 15 percent in April, which puts it among the state’s most economically distressed counties. A state law that Perdue signed recently will require the center to be based in one of those counties, which are tagged “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” counties, with Tier 1 being the hardest hit.
We’ve got several of those counties in our region. Our Tier 1 counties are Alleghany, Surry, Wilkes and Rockingham. The Tier 2 counties are Alamance, Ashe, Davidson, Davie, Randolph, Stokes, Watauga and Yadkin.
Any of these sites would be close enough to our largest cities ó Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point ó for Apple workers to enjoy their abundant amenities. Those include Winston-Salem State University and Greensboro’s N.C. A&T State University, both of which are foundations of the state’s biotech industry. Ditto for the Piedmont Triad Research Park in Winston-Salem, Forsyth Technical Community College and the rest of our community colleges, which produce a well-qualified work force.
And the amenities also include Wake Forest University, a prestigious private university and powerhouse in Atlantic Coast Conference college athletics.
In regard to transportation, the FedEx hub is starting up at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Interstates 40 and 85 are easily accessible.
The region also offers a wide variety of entertainment, from gallery hops in Winston-Salem’s arts district, wine festivals and summer music events downtown to the renowned annual barbecue festival in Lexington, the Davidson County seat. …
Just as impressive is our region’s natural beauty. We’ve got some of the most breathtaking views in the Blue Ridge, as well as endless miles of trails to hike and rivers to paddle.
Finally, there’s the friendly character of our region. If your company hasn’t already decided on a site, that character could be put to the test if an incentives battle pits one county against another.
But for a moment, we’ll surrender to a bit of optimism, even naivete: Wouldn’t it be great if you chose a site in our region just because your company realizes that we really do offer the best business environment and quality of life? Apple would win, and so would we.