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Why Did Apple Keep Promise to City of Mesa, Arizona?

Feb. 19, 2015
Apple's decision to build a $2 billion data center in the same location where its bankrupt contractor vacated is based on a number of factors.  

While Apple’s (IW 500/4) announcement earlier this month of a $2 billion expansion in Mesa, Ariz.  represents one of the company’s largest investment in its history, what is truly remarkable is that investment is the result of the company’s effort to keep its promise to the city.

The relationship between Apple and Mesa began when Apple decided to buy the 1.3 million square foot plant built by First Solar Inc. that was never occupied.  Apple chose the building as the new location for GT Advanced Technologies Inc., a sapphire-glass supplier to Apple. But that arrangement ended last year when the company filed bankruptcy.

“When GT Advanced Technologies vacated the building, Apple let us know that they were committed to the community and weren’t going to walk away, “said  Mesa Mayor John Giles.

"True to their word they proposed another use for the building, which is the command center for its global operations.” Giles added.

The $2 billion investment will be spread out over the next 30 years and is expected to employ 140 full-time employees with another 300-500 construction and trade jobs.

In yet another show of commitment to the area, Apple turned down the original $10 million incentive it was offered based on the workforce count of its contractor, the Mayor explained. While that job number was larger than the one related to the data center, the company could have made a case for the incentive.

What is so special about Mesa? Sometimes it’s the relationship between a company and a city. “They shared with us that they had a very pleasant experience working with us,” said Giles. “They were impressed by our speed. “

Speed is part of the city’s mode of operation. Apple’s building is located in the Elliot Road Technology corridor, which features a streamlined entitlement process. Last year the Mesa City Council created a procedure where development projects that might have taken six months, now may get an approval in as little as a few weeks. This industrial site has a robust infrastructure including new freeways, a new waste water treatment plant, a fiber network and affordable utility rates.

With Apple as a high profile tenant at this location the Mayor says the area is poised for growth. And growth is not possible without a talent pipeline. Near this location is a branch of Arizona State University as well as Mesa Community College. Since 2000 the workforce in the city has grown by 25% with 30% having an associates degree or higher. As of 2013 the labor force was over 220, 000.

Another plus for this community in Apple’s eyes is its solar power opportunities. With over 325 sunny days per year, the city has taken advtange of this energy source and has installed over 840 kW of clean, renewable solar energy  with more solar projects in progress.

All of Apple’s data centers are powered by renewable energy and this one will be no exception with 100% powered by renewable energy.  In fact Apple plans to produce 70MW of clean energy which we will be enough to power 14,500 Arizona homes.

While all of these reasons combine to make Mesa a good location perhaps the company believes as does the Mayor that his neighborhood “ is the best place in the U.S., it is a magical place.”

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