Apple deal approved for Mesa

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GILBERT, Ariz.--- The Gilbert School Board gave final approval to a plan to bring an Apple manufacturing plant to the East Valley.

The Board is one of several stakeholders required to approve the designation of a Foreign Trade Zone for Apple's new plant.

While the others gave immediate approval of the federal and state tax breaks which come along with the designation, some members of Gilbert's School Board voiced concern, and threatened to vote against it.

Clerk Julie Smith wondered why Apple would get tax breaks which are not given to "mom and pop" businesses.

The Board's vote was tabled several times, until the members gave unanimous consent Monday night, in front of a large audience of Apple supporters.

Calls and letters came in from hundreds of local residents, plus Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, both proponents of the Apple project. "It wasn't pressure. It was a discussion and conversation," Smith said. "They had legitimate concerns, but we were able to sit down and explain how everybody will benefit from this."

Apple promises 700 new jobs, plus 1,300 construction jobs. Apple will take over a sprawling facility built for First Solar a few years ago. Smith said Apple representatives have been in constant contact with city staffers, discussing permits and planning, but he does not know when construction will begin.