DarkBoxAppleAmerican tech companies are getting pretty sick and tired of the rampant theft of intellectual property at their off shore manufacturing facilities.  With 6 month product cycle times, these thefts are debilitating to propriety ground breaking technologies.  And off shore wages are rising, and shipping logistics remain an issue

And thus “on-shoring” of production of high value electronics.  Apple has already announced that they will start building imacs stateside.  Robotics have advanced to the point where manufacturing and/or assembling  can occur in “dark box” (aka lights out – the lingo is evolving, but robots dont need to “see”)  facilities with minimal human (labor) involvement required.  There is a significant investment required for a dark box facility, and they look for basically the same infrastructure that data farms do – stable physical environment, cheap power, good logistics.  Tax breaks don’t hurt.  Apple is up and on line with their first phase of their data center as is NJVC.  The massive Rubicon project at TRIC is under construction.

Apple’s data farm at the Reno Technology Park has a receiving component that is/was scheduled to be build at 5th and Evans downtown Reno.  The special use permit was approved, the site work permit  valued at $250,000 was issued on10/17/2012 but apparently never picked up, a ceremonial earth mover was placed on the site, and then……..doodly squat.  No construction permit has been issued, and the earth mover has been removed (less all easily resalable metals).  Something has obviously changed to Apple’s plans.

So now we move into blue sky (semi-informed) speculation mode.  Maybe Apple has already outgrown the Evans Street facility or it has become redundant?  That would make a lot of sense if Apple is planning to go dark box in Reno.  The site simply isn’t large enough to accommodate an adult sized manufacturing facility as well as as service center for the data farm.

It’s all about incentives and tax breaks.  Apple already has an agreement with the state, county and city for $70M or so in tax abatement for the RTC/Evans project’ as well a s a lease agreement with NNUD.  Reno has the most discretionary latitude to grant tax incentives, but the project site scores highest if it is in a redevelopment district and a STAR bond  district, which is why the currently proposed facility is located in the Tessera Sistrict.

So positing that Apple is going to build a dark box manufacturing facility here and want to maximize tax breaks, where would it go in the Redevelopment Districts?  2 potential sites stand out.  Boomtown has the parcels assembled under a single ownership.  Amenities are minimal, public transportation sucks, moderate seismic hazard, but closer to Cupertino than any other site.  Zoning would not be an major issue.  5th and Keystone pops up as an upstart contender.  The overall parcel is assembled (except Wendy’s), good transportation, decent amenities near by, zoned casino so most anything would fly.  What a fine “gateway” statement that would make!  Park Lane Mall and the parcel next to the RGJ might also work, but have challenges, as would Drakes Landing.  I don’t think there is the political will at this point to expand the current redevelopment districts

Is any of this really happening?  The negotiations on these sort of deals are VERY closed door and close to the vest until the details are worked out (and shoved down our throats).  If it isn’t happening , it SHOULD be happening.  I am very confident that you won’t recognize the economic base of our region come 2015.  Do any of you plugged in readers have insider information?

Graphic borrowed from The Awesome Adventure.    Cool site.