Apple's latest expansion puts it closer to its biggest rivals

Apple's new sites will let it keep a close eye on Microsoft, Amazon and Qualcomm.

Apple is on track to become the largest private employer in Austin, Texas,

Apple is on track to become the largest private employer in Austin, Texas, after announcing plans to invest $1 billion in a new campus less than a mile away from its existing facilities there. The 133-acre site will initially be home to 5,000 new employees, with the potential to grow to 15,000. The company has also announced plans to establish new sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City and expand in cities across the United States including Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado over the next three years, with the potential for additional expansion elsewhere in the US over time.

The new site will cover roles across engineering, R&D, operations, finance, sales and customer support, and like all of Apple's facilities, will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The company is already a big deal in the area, initially setting up shop in 1992 with fewer than 100 jobs. Now, with 6,200 employees, it's Apple's largest center of employment outside of its Cupertino, California headquarters.

Apple already added 6,000 US jobs this year, but the Austin announcement puts it firmly on track to reach its goal of adding 20,000 domestic jobs by 2023. Its other proposed sites will employ around 1,000 people each, but are particularly important for another reason: proximity to the competition. Seattle is home to Microsoft and Amazon, while San Diego is the US base of chip giant Qualcomm. Apple choosing to settle in these areas not only lets it keep an eye on its rivals but also nearby talent. It sends a strong message that despite flagging sales and question marks over the future of the smartphone market, Apple's doing better than fine.