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In NC, bidding process for Amazon HQ veiled in secrecy


Raleigh, N.C. — In North Carolina's quest for Amazon's second headquarters ... according to its request for proposals – Lane said the deal will mean a massive real estate grab. Revealing specifics about which sites public officials are pitching ...


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& Life Health & Life Home Health Team Go Ask Mom Aging Well Tar Heel Traveler Pets Family House & Home Food SmartShopper Healthy Recipes Grocery Cart Tracker Travel Entertainment Entertainment Home Out & About   • Voters' Choice   • Restaurants   • Movies   • Music   • Out & About TV   • Shopping & Retail   • Arts   • Sports   • Families   • Pets   • Community   • Yard Sales   • Seasonal 919 Beer Lottery Nightlife Photos Contests Games Video Video Home Weather Forecast News Brief Day Pick 3, Pick 4 EvePick 3, Pick 4 Powerball Mega Millions WRAL-TV Schedule NBC Shows Spotlight Noticias Instant Savings Classifieds Real Estate Auto About Us Advertising Privacy & Terms Mobile Apps & Services Published: 2017-12-13 13:07:00 Updated: 2017-12-13 13:42:04 2 Comments Increase Text Size Print this story @NCCapitol In NC, bidding process for Amazon HQ veiled in secrecy Tags: Economic Development and Jobs, Department of Commerce, Incentives Posted 1:07 p.mWednesdayUpdated 1:42 p.mWednesday Leave this field blankYour e-mail address:*Your friends e-mail addresses (comma separated):*Subject:*Message:*A friend wanted you to see this item from WRAL.com: http://wr.al/1A4cMGet a new codeAre you human?*You must enter the characters with black color that stand out from the other charactersfunction init_abd76ac49b83f9492785fea1ffb57499(){if(typeof jQuery=="undefined"||typeof jQuery.fn.Zebra_Form=="undefined"){setTimeout("init_abd76ac49b83f9492785fea1ffb57499()",100);return}else{$(document).ready(function(){$("#share_email_form").Zebra_Form({clientside_disabled:false,close_tips:true,on_ready:false,scroll_to_error:true,tips_position:'left',validate_on_the_fly:false,validate_all:false,validation_rules:{"from_email":{"required":["Your e-mail address is required"],"email":["Your e-mail address seems to be invalid"]},"to_email":{"required":["Recipient's e-mail address is required"],"emails":["Recipient's e-mail address seems to be invalid"]},"subject":{"required":["Subject is required"]},"message":{"required":["Message is required"]},"captcha_code":{"required":["Enter the characters from the image above!"]}}})})}}init_abd76ac49b83f9492785fea1ffb57499() By Tyler DukesRaleigh, N.C— In North Carolina's quest for Amazon's second headquarters, state and local officials are choosing secrecy over public disclosure. Four regions across the state, including Charlotte and Raleigh, are locked in competition for the tech giant's new campus with more than 230 other communities in the U.Sand CanadaDozens of those communities have released at least portions of their bids publicly, a step all of the competitors in North Carolina have refused to take. But officials on the local, county and state level here have gone furtherThey're refusing to release communication and other documents related to the bid, which they say would make them less competitive in the fight for Amazon – and the 50,000 jobs it could create. Many agencies, many denials WRAL News submitted records requests for Amazon-related materials to 15 North Carolina agencies, county governments and municipalities earlier this yearTen of the public agencies denied those requests outrightOnly one agency – the City of Durham – released any information directly related to the internal bidding process. dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/4226809-EDPNC-emails-re-release-of-info/annotations/393268.js'); View note North Carolina's public records law does permit officials to withhold information about economic development projects if its release would "frustrate the purpose" of the recordsIt's a common way for officials to keep quiet about companies eyeing the state until firms officially announce their expansion or relocation – whether here or elsewhere. Amazon's highly public announcement seeking bids makes it somewhat different from the typically secretive efforts to recruit companiesBut Brent Lane, economic strategist at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said Amazon's case isn't different enough to warrant disclosure. "If I was putting a bid together, I would keep it secret from you, too," Lane said. Given the company's space requirements – 8 million square feet of office space, according to its request for proposals – Lane said the deal will mean a massive real estate grabRevealing specifics about which sites public officials are pitching could raise prices on land or buildings, putting the potential project in jeopardy. But Lane said keeping the offers to Amazon private can also insulate economic developers from any political pushback. Some offers public, but not in NC Amazon itself isn't releasing the proposals, a spokesperson said, but the company hasn't prohibited regions releasing them on their own. Large cities like Boston, Minneapolis and Newark, N.J., have all released details about their bids, along with smaller metro areas like Fresno and Chula Vista, Calif. Some of these areas have offered billions in subsidies to land the deal, along with other perks like free land or a special city "task force" to help the company spin up its new operation in Boston. Nathan Jensen, a professor of government at the University of Texas who has long studied how companies use incentive deals in their expansions, said many of these offers carry long-term implications for public policyThat's why he finds the lack of transparency around the Amazon deals frustrating. "We're essentially making public policy without the public," Jensen said. Jonathan Jones, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition at Elon University, shares those concerns "When you're allowing everything to be conducted in secret, you take away the ability for citizens to give redress in a timely matter," Jones said. Chris Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the public-private group helping to promote the statewide bids for the project, says there's nothing unusual about the regional decisions not to publish the bidsAnd given that the vast majority of the 238 metro areas in play aren't releasing their proposals, North Carolina is well within the norm. "It’s a longstanding practice in economic development, when vying for a highly competitive project, to keep certain information confidential, so as not to tip your hand to competitors as the selection process moves forward and the field narrows to finalists," Chung said in an emailed statement"That's one reason why laws in many states provide for a certain measure of confidentiality before a company announces its choice." But Jensen said there's a bigger problem with the choice not to involve the public in these offers. "If I were Amazon, the one thing that would worry me is a community not publicly releasing their bid," Jensen said"Is it credible then? Can you live up to your promises?" Some cities say they're not involved Although the secrecy is in some ways unsurprising, Jensen said he's noticed another trend among the Amazon proposals he's been tracking in his own researchPrivate groups like chambers of commerce, regional partnerships and economic development corporations – rather than government entities – are the ones who have largely submitted bids to the tech companyDepending on the state, some of these groups are not subject to public records laws even when the deals are announced. "Many of the municipalities claim they don't even have the full bid," Jensen said"That seems to be a strategy." North Carolina has followed this national trendAll four regions submitting bids – Hickory, Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle – have done so through these private groupsAll four denied requests to release the full proposals. In the case of two North Carolina municipalities – Hickory and Greensboro – officials told WRAL News that city officials exchanged no correspondence about the bids with anyone. "To the best of my knowledge, this item was handled by the Chamber of Commerce (along with related groups in Winston-Salem and High Point) and I’m not aware of any information we were provided or prepared," Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland said in an emailed response to WRAL's request. Having economic development groups take the lead, Chung said, is a response to Amazon's "unusual public invitation" to bid for its second headquarters with specific requirements. "It's important to note that North Carolina's response to the one-of-a-kind Amazon HQ2 is still highly collaborative and involves local and state, public and private partners," Chung said in an emailed statement"That's essential when most companies' considerations span everything from site options and infrastructure, to workforce development and quality-of-life amenities, to incentives and so much more." The lack of involvement from city officials is a likely indicator that North Carolina's bids are missing specifics on incentives, which economic developers point out Amazon did not require of the initial proposalsThat's true of the proposal from the Triangle, which apparently didn't include a specific dollar figure. "We didn't have to quantify it because we weren't in a position to quantify it," Ted Conner, vice president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview last month. In the end, Lane said he doubts the proposals will mean much to Amazon anywayInstead, he said this "distasteful process" has resulted in wasted time and effort for the economic developers who scrambled to assemble the bids over the course of a few weeks. "There is no company in the world – or the history of the world – that was better informed about where they will locate than Amazon was before they started this process," Lane said. All the same, Jones said he'd rather have a full picture of what the regions are offering than be kept in the dark. "As a member of the general public, we don't know what North Carolina has put forward, so we can't be skeptical," Jones said"As a citizen, you're trusting these economic developers to put forward an offer that's enticing but responsible, with no way to evaluate whether that's actually occurring." With Amazon not expected to make a decision until 2018, he'll just have to wait. How they responded In response to requests for information about the Amazon proposals, WRAL News received at least partial denials from 11 of the 15 agencies in North Carolina. Read and search the full collection of responses received for the bids – and subsequent requests for communication about whether to release them here. RegionAgencyResponseDetail TriangleCity of RaleighDeniedRelease would "frustrate the purpose" of recordsTriangleCity of DurhamSupplied emailsIncluded internal discussion and letter of support from officialsTriangleWake CountyDeniedRelease would "frustrate the purpose" of recordsTriangleDurham CountyDeniedRelease would "frustrate the purpose" of recordsTriangleChatham CountyDeniedRelease would "frustrate the purpose" of recordsTriadCity of GreensboroNo recordsCity had not correspondence about the projectTriadCity of Winston-SalemDeniedRelease would "frustrate the purpose" of recordsTriadForsyth County

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