Apple move excites Elk Grove

Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6B

It was a source of community pride – the first candy-colored iMac computers, the ones that fueled Apple's comeback in the late 1990s, were assembled at the company's Elk Grove campus.

Now, eight years after Apple Inc. stopped manufacturing in Elk Grove, city officials are wondering if a comeback is possible.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, fueled much of the speculation on Thursday by declaring the company intends to start manufacturing Mac computers again in the United States next year.

Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek magazine and NBC's "Rock Center with Brian Williams" that Apple expects to invest more than $100 million to resume U.S. manufacturing.

His comments came several days after the website TechCrunch reported that some Macs are already undergoing final assembly in the United States. TechCrunch said a possible site is Elk Grove.

"I've heard the scuttlebutt," said Mayor-elect Gary Davis.

Before the assembly line closed in 2004, Elk Grove was Apple's last in-house manufacturing site in the United States.

In recent months, Apple has come under fire because of working conditions at Foxconn, its Chinese supplier. Foxconn, which does have some operations in the United States, said Thursday it plans to expand its U.S. manufacturing.

Tim Bajarin, a Silicon Valley consultant, said Apple must have figured out how to make computers again in the U.S. without sacrificing profit.

"You don't do this just for publicity," said Bajarin, who runs a company called Creative Strategies.

He believes a new Apple facility in Austin, Texas, could be a likely site for manufacturing.

Elk Grove officials, however, are contacting Apple to see if manufacturing might return to the Laguna Boulevard campus. Davis and Randy Starbuck, the city's economic development director, haven't yet gotten any answers from the notoriously secretive company.

Apple didn't respond to inquiries from The Bee.

Apple employs as many as 1,800 workers in Elk Grove, mainly in customer support, marketing and distribution.

The company ramped up hiring around the time the new iPhone 5 was released this fall, Starbuck said.

He said the Laguna campus has undergone some renovations lately, but he believes the changes are mostly connected to improving compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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