Apple to build new Austin hub, expand in other tech hotbeds
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, MATT O’BRIEN and WILL WEISSERT
Friday, December 14
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub.
The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax cut on overseas profits, which prompted the company to bring about $250 billion back to the U.S.
The company said it will also open offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years. Apple also pledged to add hundreds of jobs each in New York; Pittsburgh; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.
“They are just picking America’s most established superstar cities and tech hubs,” said Richard Florida, an urban development expert at the University of Toronto.
Apple’s scattershot expansion reflects the increasing competition for engineers in Silicon Valley, which has long been the world’s high-tech capital. The bidding for programmers is driving salaries higher, which in turn is catapulting the average prices of homes in many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area above $1 million. Many high-tech workers are thus choosing to live elsewhere, causing major tech employers such as Apple, Amazon and Google to look in new places for the employees they need to pursue their future ambitions.
“Talent, creativity and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas aren’t limited by region or ZIP code,” Cook said in a statement.
Cities around the country offered financial incentives in an attempt to land Apple’s new campus, but Cook avoided a high-profile competition that pitted them against one another, as Amazon had before deciding to build huge new offices in New York and Virginia.
Amazon could receive up to $2.8 billion in incentives in New York, depending on how many it ultimately hires there, and up to $750 million in Virginia. Apple will receive up to $25 million from a jobs-creation fund in Texas in addition to property-tax rebates, which still need approval. The figure is expected to be a small fraction of what Amazon received.
The government incentives offered to Apple seem “more in the line of normal business site selection” compared with Amazon’s public “shakedown,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Center.
“There’s a growing backlash in the country against the entire process of subsides and relocation inducements,” Muro said. “That said, the Apple numbers for a very significant increase in jobs are much less eye-popping than the Amazon numbers.”
The spots where Amazon and Apple decided to expand were obvious choices, based on an analysis released earlier this year by CBRE Research. Washington, D.C., ranked as the third best place in North America for tech talent, behind Silicon Valley and Seattle. New York ranked fifth and Austin sixth. No. 4 was outside the U.S.: Toronto.
The new Austin campus, with about 3 million square feet (nearly 280,000 square meters) of office space, will be about a mile from another large office that Apple opened five years ago. Apple currently employs about 6,200 workers in Austin, making it the company’s largest hub outside Silicon Valley even before the expansion.
The new jobs are expected to mirror the same mix Apple already has at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, ranging from jobs in technology and research that pay well over $100,000 to lower-paying positions in customer call centers. Austin Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Phil Wilson described jobs that Apple will be adding as “mid-skill” and “good-paying.”
Virtually all of the jobs in Seattle and San Diego will be in technology — a field where six-figure paychecks plus stock options are standard. The jobs in Culver City, about eight miles from Hollywood, will also be in digital music and video, two areas Apple is expanding in to boost its subscription entertainment offerings.
While much of the $250 billion overseas profits has been earmarked for buying back company stock and paying higher shareholder dividends, Apple pledged in January to finance more than $30 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S. over the next five years. It also committed to creating more than 20,000 more U.S. jobs during that same time frame. After adding 6,000 jobs, Apple said it now has 90,000 U.S. workers and is on track to fulfill its expansion pledge on schedule.
Where U.S. companies open new facilities or plants has had the potential for public and political backlash.
That potential intensified under the Trump administration, which has pushed companies to keep more of their operations in the U.S.
While Cook has steered mostly clear of President Donald Trump’s ire, Apple received some pushback three months ago. Apple sent a letter to the U.S. trade representative warning that the burgeoning trade war with China and rising tariffs could force higher prices for U.S. consumers. Trump in a tweet told Apple to start making its products in the U.S., and not China. Apple uses plants in China and elsewhere to produce components and assemble its products.
Cities have been eager to bring in more tech employers because their hires often make six-figure salaries. That can ripple through the economy, with new employees filling restaurants and theaters, buying property and paying taxes.
But an influx of affluent tech workers can also drive up rent and home prices, making it more difficult for those in lower-paying jobs to make ends meet.
“When tech companies invest in a place and try to hire thousands of workers, it is of course good news for tech workers who are already there and want to be there,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist for employment website Indeed.com. “But it can put a strain on the housing market and transportation.”
Austin might not feel the stress as much as some other places, Kolko said, because it already has been building more housing in anticipation of more tech employment.
Austin’s tech industries accounted for nearly 140,000 local jobs, or 14 percent of Austin’s total employment, about twice the national average, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.
Apple opened its first office in Austin a quarter century ago, and Dell’s headquarters are in nearby Round Rock. Google, Facebook and IBM are among the other notable tech companies with satellite offices in Austin.
Austin landed another coup in July when the U.S. Army announced plans for a “Futures Command” center to train soldiers and develop technology to combat threats from places like China and Russia.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hailed Apple’s new campus as a milestone development that “truly elevates Austin as one of the premier technology hubs in the entire world.”
Liedtke reported from San Ramon, California, and O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.
What the US could learn from Thailand about health care coverage
December 14, 2018
Author: Joseph Harris, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Boston University
Disclosure statement: Joseph Harris received two Fulbright awards for his research in Thailand.
Partners: Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) draws to a close on Dec. 15. Yet, recent assaults on the ACA by the Trump administration stand in marked contrast to efforts to expand access to health care and medicine in the rest of the world. In fact, on Dec. 12, the world observed Universal Coverage Day, a day celebrated by the United Nations to commemorate passage of a momentous, unanimous U.N. General Assembly resolution in support of universal health coverage in 2012.
While the U.N. measure was nonbinding and did not commit U.N. member states to adopt universal health care, many global health experts viewed it as an achievement of extraordinary symbolic importance, as it drew attention to the importance of providing access to quality health care services, medicines and financial protection for all.
Co-sponsored by 90 member states, the declaration shined a light on the profound effect that expansion of health care coverage has had on the lives of ordinary people in parts of the world with far fewer resources than the U.S., including Thailand, Mexico and Ghana. Can the U.S. learn anything from these countries’ efforts?
US and Thailand: A study in contrasts
I came to understand these changes as I researched and wrote my book, “Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism.” The book offers a comparative and historical take on the politics of universal health care and AIDS treatment, featuring Thailand as the primary case. For me, Thailand’s remarkable achievements also put into perspective some of the work we still have to do here in the United States with respect to health reform.
Before the reform, Thailand had four different state health insurance schemes, which collectively covered about 70 percent of the population. The reform in 2002 consolidated two of those programs and extended coverage to everyone who did not already receive coverage through the country’s health insurance programs for civil servants and formal sector workers.
Thailand’s universal coverage policy contributed to rising life expectancy, decreased mortality among infants and children, and a leveling of the historical health disparities between rich and poor regions of the country. The number of people being impoverished by health care payments also declined dramatically, particularly among the poor.
However, Thailand’s reform had other important consequences that aimed to make the reform sustainable as well. Sensible financing and gatekeeping arrangements – that tied patients to a medical home near where they lived and provided fixed annual payments for physicians to cover outpatient care – were instituted to curb the kind of cost escalation that has historically been a hallmark of the United States (though it has slowed lately). The reform also improved the quality of care for patients in remote areas by mandating that qualified providers in community hospitals collaborate more extensively with rural health centers.
The United States, by contrast, seems to be moving in the opposite direction, both in terms of insurance coverage and health outcomes. Although recent Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act were narrowly defeated, lawsuits that aim to terminate popular pre-existing conditions protections continue. In addition, the Trump administration has sought to weaken the reform in other ways: including by cutting the open enrollment periods, which ends Dec. 15 and lasts 45 days; cutting outreach and advertising for open enrollment; and threatening to suspend risk adjustment payments to private insurers, which help to stabilize the market.
Moreover, effective repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate through a provision in the 2017 Tax Reconciliation Act that reduces the penalty for not having insurance to zero in 2019 will have the effect of reducing the number of insured. This will have an effect on health insurance markets, likely reducing the number of younger and healthier people that help give balance to health insurance risk pools and that help keep overall costs down. And without the financial protection afforded by health insurance, those who are uninsured may face rising rates of medical bankruptcy, to say nothing for the loss of access to sorely needed medical care.
Learning from Thailand
To be sure, the Thai and American contexts are very, very different. While health spending stands at around 4 percent of GDP in Thailand, in America nearly 20 percent, or one-fifth, of the country’s total economic output is spent on health. Yet, in some ways, that makes Thailand’s achievement all the more remarkable. And while no program is perfect, Thailand’s reform is one of the reasons that health costs in Thailand have remained so low, despite such a dramatic increase in coverage.
Reformers also drew on other innovative policy instruments to keep costs down, including the Government Pharmaceutical Organization that produces generic medication for the universal coverage program and the use of compulsory licenses, which allow governments to produce or import generic versions of patented medication under WTO law.
The Affordable Care Act similarly sought to improve access, while curbing costs. Some of the most important mechanisms to curb costs fell victim to the legislative process however. Most notably, lobbyists succeeded in killing the “public option,” a government (as opposed to private) health insurer with much lower administrative costs that aimed to bring costs down among private health insurers through competition with them.
Although the reform in Thailand was popular among the masses, it also saw its share of detractors. Medical associations that represented doctors who saw the policy as a threat came out against it. Likewise, beneficiaries of the existing programs for civil servants and employees of large, tax-paying businesses feared that their own benefits would be diluted by a new single payer program. Despite progress expanding access to everyone, the new program introduced in 2002 still sits alongside separate programs for civil servants and employees of large, tax-paying businesses.
What the contrast makes clear, however, is that reforms done properly can expand access while at the same time instituting measures that help to contain costs. The U.S., in my view, should pursue similarly creative and constructive reforms that seek to do both.
What does that look like in the United States? To me, that means preserving the ACA’s individual mandate and protections related to pre-existing conditions; creating (or expanding) a public insurer like Medicare to compete alongside private insurers and keep costs down; addressing the lack of price transparency in our nation’s hospitals; and actively negotiating with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals to bring costs of drugs and health care down for millions.
Done sensibly, developing nations like Thailand are proving that they do not have to join the ranks of the world’s wealthiest nations for their citizens to enjoy access to health care and medicine. Using evidence-based decision-making, even expensive benefits, like dialysis, heart surgery and chemotherapy, need not remain out of reach. Policymakers in all countries can institute reforms using tools that promote cost savings at the same time they improve access and equity.
While efforts to implement universal coverage are not without challenges, these results suggest that leaders in Congress would do well to learn from countries like Thailand as they chart a fiscally responsible path forward on health care.
Casper Lӧtter, Researcher, University of the Free State: Excellent piece of comparative sociology. Thanks for this. Let me tell you straight-out why I think the Thai lessons are unlikely to make an impact in the US: the reason is a small word called ‘selfishness’. That’s it. Some people are so wrapped up in their own concerns and comforts that they could’ nt give a damn about others’. What we need is to institutionalize what feminists such as Fiona Robinson call ‘the ethic of care’. In short, instead of Trumpism, we need a caring society. My remarks do not detract from the great value of your piece, though.
The more male gorillas look after young, the more young they’re likely to have
December 3, 2018
Author: Stacy Rosenbaum, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles
Disclosure statement: Stacy Rosenbaum receives funding from The National Science Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Paternal care – where fathers care for their children – is rare among mammals (that is, animals which give birth to live young). Scientists have identified more than 6,000 mammal species, but paternal care only occurs in 5 to 10% of them.
Humans fall into that category, along with species like mice and lions. There are also a number of South American monkey species where males take on equal or greater childcare burdens than females. But these species are the exceptions, not the rule.
Scientists believe the reason so many male mammals don’t get involved in caring for their young is because they get higher “returns on investment” if their energy is spent seeking out more mating opportunities rather than actively parenting. Simply put, male mammals that spend their time producing more infants rather than taking care of the ones they have will leave behind more offspring. Over time, natural selection favours males who use this strategy, so fathering behaviour rarely gains an evolutionary foothold.
Mountain gorillas, found in the mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the exceptions to the rule.
Though mountain gorilla groups are full of complex social dynamics, just as human families are, in many groups some of the strongest social bonds we observe are between adult males and infants – even when the infants aren’t the males’ own offspring. From the time that young gorillas are old enough to move away from their mothers, they follow males everywhere. Males, in turn, are extremely tolerant. Some regularly hold, play with, groom, and let infants sleep in their nests with them.
In a recent study, my colleagues and I set out to determine why this might be the case, since this behaviour didn’t seem to only benefit their own infants. We found that the gorillas who spent the most time with any young, not just their own, also sired the most infants.
This is a notable finding, since mountain gorillas are not a species in which scientific theory predicts this sort of behaviour, much less a connection to the males’ eventual reproductive success. They have the behavioural and physical characteristics of a species where males are expected to invest their energy in finding mating opportunities, not bonding with infants.
For our study we used 30 years of genetic paternity data to determine which males sired which infant, and compared that to hundreds of hours of data on their behaviour. We recorded what percentage of each male’s time he spent grooming and resting with infants. In total, we included data from 23 males, who collectively sired 109 infants.
Our models show that, across the course of their lives, males who do the most grooming and resting with infants are expected to sire about five times as many infants as the males who do the least. This is true even after controlling for other very important factors, such as how long the male lived and what dominance rank he held.
This is a surprising finding. When we observe paternal care among mammals, the vast majority of the time it is in species that are monogamous – that is, males only mate with a single female, and vice versa. Gorillas are not monogamous, and the males’ very well developed characteristics for fighting (like large muscles and teeth) suggest that their primary strategy is to fight for new mating opportunities, not to care for infants.
Though we cannot be sure exactly why the males who care more for infants fare better than their peers who don’t, our best guess is that female gorillas prefer to mate with the males who are nicest to infants. There are other possibilities that need to be explored, however – for example, maybe the males who have personalities that females like are also more inclined to interact with infants.
Regardless of exactly how the connection between males’ relationships with infants and their reproductive success occurs, if males who have the strongest social bonds with infants are also leaving behind the most infants, then we would expect that over time a larger and larger proportion of male gorillas would engage in this kind of behaviour.
Presumably, something similar could have happened among the now-extinct species that led to modern humans. Our ancestors, like the gorillas, were probably not monogamous. And yet at some point males in these species must have also started interacting with, and caring for, infants.
The kind of care-taking that male gorillas do is extremely rudimentary in comparison to what humans do. Nonetheless, it is notable because of the insights it can provide into how male care-taking in the lineage that led to humans might have overcome the usual evolutionary payoffs that kept it from evolving in most living mammal species.