“I would see this more as an Apple-Corning partnership to flesh out what other kinds of things you would use glass for,” he said. “They are literally thinking about stuff you and I aren’t thinking about yet.”
The investment is also a good-will gesture toward Republicans, including President Trump, who has criticized Apple for building its iPhones in China, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky. Apple said it spent $50 billion last year with American suppliers, although it manufactures just one product line, the nearly obsolete Mac Pro, in the United States.
Last month, Mr. Trump sketched out a plan to slash overall corporate tax rates and perhaps offer companies a special break for bringing back profits held overseas.
Apple has accumulated more cash than any other company in the United States — $257 billion as of April 1 — and virtually all of it is stashed untaxed in foreign bank accounts. Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, has repeatedly complained that taxes in the United States are too high and has vowed not to bring the cash home until taxes are cut.
Underscoring the political implications of the Apple-Corning deal, Mr. McConnell joined executives from the two companies at the formal announcement at the 65-year-old plant on Friday afternoon.
“Like millions of people around the world, the last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at in the morning is my iPhone,” Mr. McConnell said. “Unlike millions of people around the world, I think of Harrodsburg, Ky., and this amazing Gorilla Glass that you guys make here.”
Mr. McConnell said there was a lot that Congress could do to help Corning and Apple be even more successful.
“We are going to try, through comprehensive tax reform, to make both of these corporations be in a better position to compete with other companies in other countries,” he said.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said that when Apple’s founder, Steven P. Jobs, showed a prototype of the first iPhone on stage in 2007, it had a hard plastic face. Mr. Jobs complained that it scratched too easily in his pocket and ordered Mr. Williams to replace it with scratch-proof, shatter-resistant glass by the time the phone went on sale six months later. Such glass did not exist except in the lab, but Corning scrambled to get it into production.
“It all happened here in Harrodsburg, and Apple owes you a big thank you,” Mr. Williams told the assembled workers.
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