City council approves $8.6M for Apple

A massive taxpayer-funded incentive package for Apple to expand its W. Parmer Ln. campus in northwest Austin has now passed Austin City Council.

But the six-zero vote did not come without plenty of people to speak against it.

News Radio KLBJ's Jarrod Allen reports in-depth:

"Governments just don't do a very good job of choosing economic winners and losers in what should be a free-enterprise economy," Craig McDonald said, in public comment.

But Jimmy Flanagan, a small business owner, sees it differently.  "When you add up the economic benefits, there's $282-million in new property and equipment and over $600-million in new payroll attributed to the city in over ten years," Flanagan told Austin City Council.

The deal is on top of $21-million the state has promised the tech company, which has been claiming Austin is in competition with other cities for the expansion.

"As a director of economic development, if another city asks me, I wouldn't tell them.  The chambers of commerce of other cities will not respond, either, for fear that we are in competition with them," said Kevin Johns, Austin's Economic Development Director.

City Council member Kathie Tovo cast an affirmative vote for the incentive package but had reservations.  "This is a decision I have really struggled with.  Potential cuts, for example, to our parks programs.  I was really distressed to see how some of our summer camps might be impacted and whatnot," Tovo said.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole pointed to the public's hesitance to grant economic incentives to companies for fear that they would attract more people who would end up too reliant on public assistance.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell calls it a 'contested negotiation' and says "at this point, if we were to reject this tentative agreement, there would be cities all around this country who would be overjoyed to have Apple come to their city."

The agreement is meant to foster 3,600 jobs through an expansion of Apple's Americas Operations Center near Parmer and McNeil in far northwest Austin.

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