Ohio Ama­zon pitches aren’t pub­lic

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Local News - By Julie Carr Smyth

COLUM­BUS » Gov. John Ka­sich has made no apolo­gies for cham­pi­oning the con­fi­den­tial­ity of Ohio’s job-creation of­fice, which is shield­ing records that could show what in­cen­tives the state has of­fered to at­tract Ama­zon’s sec­ond head­quar­ters.

Ohio is among more than 15 states and cities , in­clud­ing Chicago, Cleve­land and Las Ve­gas, that de­clined re­quests from The As­so­ci­ated Press to re­lease doc­u­ments on the prom­ises they’ve made to try to lure the com­pany. Colum­bus re­leased some records re­lated to its bid, and Cincinnati still was pro­cess­ing the re­quest.

Ka­sich en­dured years of lit­i­ga­tion, po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance and me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tions af­ter push­ing the creation of Job­sOhio, a pri­va­tized eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion.

A former in­vest­ment banker, he ar­gued plac­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions out­side most pub­lic records and lob­by­ing laws al­lowed Ohio to move “at the speed of busi­ness.”

“Job­sOhio has played a key role in our abil­ity to grow nearly half a mil­lion new pri­vate-sec­tor jobs and di­ver­sify our econ­omy into new and ex­cit­ing in­dus­tries that will make our state more re­silient for years to come,” spokesman Jon Keeling said Thurs­day.

At an ap­pear­ance with Job­sOhio Pres­i­dent and Chief In­vest­ment Of­fi­cer John Mi­nor in Oc­to­ber, Ka­sich said records of what Ohio has of­fered to lure a com­pany are al­ways avail­able once the deal is done. That was the case with state de­vel­op­ment pitches even be­fore Job­sOhio was cre­ated.

“Ev­ery­thing is an open book,” he said. “You want to see what we’ve of­fered to Ama­zon when it came to get­ting their cloud-com­put­ing (cen­ter) or any of the things that we of­fer ... all th­ese things are there for you to take a look at.”

Mi­nor con­firmed that Ohio had pitched Ama­zon on bring­ing its sec­ond head­quar­ters to the state.

“At the right time, we’ll cer­tainly dis­close what those cred­its and other forms of as­sis­tance are,” he said.

Job­sOhio spokesman Matthew En­gle­hart said all Job­sOhio projects are com­pet­i­tive with other states, and the non­profit doesn’t share any com­pany’s pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion or its com­pet­i­tive ne­go­ti­a­tion po­si­tion dur­ing on­go­ing project dis­cus­sions.

“As you can imag­ine, this in­for­ma­tion could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on win­ning projects for Ohio,” he said. “How­ever, af­ter a project is won, a com­pany’s com­mit­ments to the state and Job­sOhio as well as any as­sis­tance from the state or Job­sOhio are fully trans­par­ent and al­ways made pub­lic.”

While Colum­bus re­leased records and emails with some ba­sic de­tails of its bid and in­ter­nal con­ver­sa­tions, it re­ferred AP’s re­quest for the full Ama­zon pro­posal to Colum­bus 2020, a non­profit.

Colum­bus 2020 and the city of Cleve­land both de­clined to re­lease specifics, cit­ing con­fi­den­tial or trade se­crets.

Cincinnati asked the news ser­vice to nar­row its re­quest, say­ing the lan­guage was too broad. It was con­tin­u­ing to process the re­quest Thurs­day.

The state re­leased a let­ter to the AP in re­sponse to the re­quest. The let­ter was a pitch state De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor David Good­man made to Ama­zon CEO Jef­frey Bezos, high­light­ing the state’s over­all as­sets and pledg­ing to bring to­gether his agency, Ka­sich, Job­sOhio and oth­ers to help the com­pany.

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