Native governments gained't say what they're providing Amazon


By JOSH CORNFIELD
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – State and local governments have been more than happy to play up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice for Amazon’s second headquarters. But many of them will not disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they are offering the online giant.

More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused requests from The Associated Press to detail the promises they made to try to lure the company.

Among the reasons given: Such information is a “trade secret” and disclosing it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

“We want to be in the best possible position to negotiate. We don’t want the whole world to know our strategy,” Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said in a radio interview.

Amazon’s search for a second headquarters city has triggered an unprecedented competition among governments around North America to attract a $5 billion project that promises to create 50,000 jobs. The retailing behemoth has made clear that tax breaks and grants will be a big factor in its decision. It received 238 proposals and said it will announce a decision sometime this year.

Public records laws around the country vary, but when courting businesses, governments generally aren’t required to disclose tax breaks and other incentives during the negotiating phase.

Open-government advocates, though, argue that Amazon is a special case because of the way it has turned the project into a public auction, the large amount of taxpayer money at stake, and the political clout the Seattle-based company could have in its new home.

“They’re just acting like this is another secret deal,” said Greg LeRoy, head of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit group that tracks economic development spending. “This is a nutty situation.”

He said there are no grounds for hiding the information since no one is negotiating yet with Amazon.

“It’s all paid for by taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Therefore, it should all be public.”

In recent months, Amazon suitors in Maine have cited New England’s charm, skiing and beaches, Detroit has cited its rebounding downtown, and others have boasted of their labor forces or public transportation. Chicago recruited “Star Trek” actor William Shatner to help narrate…



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