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Ohio among states whose Amazon pitches aren't public

Posted at 10:10 AM, Jan 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-13 10:10:39-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- 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 it 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.