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North Carolina locals question benefits of Apple's $1 billion server farm

A new report claims that local residents view Apple's massive data center in Maiden, N.C. has been a "disappointing development" because it has brought just 50 full-time jobs to the area, which is struggling with double-digit unemployment rates.

The Washington Post spoke to several residents from the small town of 3,400 about Apple's $1 billion project.

“Apple really doesn’t mean a thing to this town,” said Tony Parker, a furniture maker in the town.

Kelly McRee, Parker's son-in-law, viewed the benefits of the company coming to town as largely symbolic. “Apple was the apple of everybody’s eye, but that’s about it. It was something for everyone to ooh and aah over.”

But, Maiden Town Manager William "Todd" Herms believes Apple does have a positive impact on residents' lives. “I think the average citizen sees it affecting life,” he said. “They are a great corporate neighbor.”

At the least, two residents have benefitted significantly from Apple's venture. Donnie and Kathy Fulbright received $1.7 million from the company for their one-acre property. Apple had to make several offers for their land and eventually asked them to set their own price.

As for others, the data center hasn't been a help to them. When asked how tough things were in Maiden, Samantha Saunders, the owner of a local hardware store, said, “The extreme of tough.”

An unemployed Maiden resident voiced doubt to the Post that jobs at the data center are actually accessible to locals. “People from around here don’t get those jobs,” he said. “Really, furniture is the only thing I know. Those data jobs are not for us.”

The North Carolina legislature amended its corporate income tax law in order to offer Apple tax breaks of up to $46 million over the next 10 years to build its data center in the state. According to the report, local authorities have discounted property taxes by 50 percent and personal taxes by 85 percent. In exchange, Apple has created 50 full-time jobs and is also expected to create 250 "indirect contracting jobs."

The state's unemployment rate of 10.5 percent currently stands as one of the highest in the U.S. The area around Maiden has an even higher jobless rate of 13 percent.

Apple announced Maiden as the location for the data center project, codenamed "Project Dolphin," in 2009. According to the company, the server farm, which opened up earlier this year, supports its iTunes, MobileMe and iCloud services.

The Cupertino, Calif., company does not appear to be finished with developments on the data center. Recently-revealed permits show that Apple is looking to build a solar farm to power the facilities. AppleInsider reported earlier this month that renewable energy company Leaf Solar Power has been contracted to help with the project. Apple is also rumored to be interested in doubling the size of the 500,000 square-foot center.