Support plan to open up economic development talks
Saturday, January 12, 2013 4:00 AM
Much has been debated about the need for economic development efforts at the state and local levels to be more transparent to the public.
Transparency has been a divisive issue as Madison and Jefferson County work on developing an economic development structure.
Many counties, cities and towns across the state also have expressed dissatisfaction with their relationship with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation at the state level. The state organization receives funding from local entities for the purpose of enticing industrial and commercial prospects to the state.
How much of sometimes-delicate negotiations should be revealed to the public? Will shining more light on the process cause prospective businesses to look elsewhere to set up shop?
That's a difficult question to answer, and there are legitimate answers on both sides.
State Sen. Mike Delph, a Carmel Republican, plans to introduce legislation during this session of the General Assembly to make the work of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation more transparent.
The Hoosier State Press Association is likely to support the effort, said association Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key. The Madison Courier, too, supports Delph and HSPA - and so should every public official and citizen in the state.
The HSPA already has offered some suggestions for greater public access for local economic development corporations.
HSPA wants to add to the requirement a report detailing an economic development group's activity.
The report would include:
Number of companies the economic development corporation contacted;
Number of economic development-related events the entity participated in;
Number of entities that received incentive package offers;
Details on incentive packages accepted by companies to relocate or stay in the county, including dollar amount and purpose of the expenditure.
And, for companies that accepted an incentive package:
The name and address of the recipient;
Representations made by the entity in exchange of an incentive package, such as years it will stay, new hires promised and internal investments into the property.
None of these recommended requirements would impede negotiations with economic development initiatives.
Delph needs to be firm in his pursuit of new legislation. Citizens must be informed and know how their tax dollars are being spent. He has the support of newspapers across the state, and, we suspect, most citizens.