Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: IEDC secrecy draws needed light

March 30, 2013

Current and past leaders of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. should note that their lack of transparency on jobs has created a small miracle: virtual unity in the General Assembly.

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House and Senate voted nearly unanimously last week (98-0 in the House and 49-1 in the Senate) to require the agency to disclose incentive agreements and actual results—how many jobs companies created, not just how many they promised to create. Gov. Mike Pence is expected to sign the measure into law.

It’s no secret that IEDC acts as a sort of public relations arm of the Governor’s Office—orchestrating big jobs announcements and ribbon-cutting events where companies make big promises.

But the organization has been cagey when it comes to questions about such deals and actual results. In recent years, only 46 percent of awarded incentives are claimed—a fact that doesn’t play quite so well at ribbon cuttings.

The bill by State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, and shepherded through the House by Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, calls for incentive deals between the state and companies to be available for inspection and copying once they are reached. The bill also requires annual performance reports on all incentive deals offered since 2005, including actual jobs created.

Here’s hoping the bill leads to a more transparent IEDC on a variety of fronts.

IBJ routinely seeks additional information on state jobs announcements, ranging from details about incentives to vetting of companies to a company’s current head count. IEDC’s response over the years has been consistent: No comment beyond the press release.

That was the response when the newspaper asked questions in 2011 after IEDC touted a California entrepreneur’s plan to create 1,000 jobs by building semi-trucks outfitted with digital screens (Litebox).

And it was the same response in March, after IEDC announced that cloud software provider TinderBox planned to create up to 96 jobs by 2016. IBJ simply asked for the company’s current head count.

“The IEDC is not required to disclose that information,” spokeswoman Katelyn Hancock replied via email.

The language of Senate Bill 162 gives IEDC an outline of what should be included in the job-incentive agreements that are now considered public records. Important details the bill does not appear to require are disclosure of average wages of jobs created or individual company performance.

In a statement, IEDC President Eric Doden praised lawmakers for their efforts to “clarify state policy for economic development transparency.”

We hope the agency interprets the thrust of the bill as we do: The public has a right to know how its resources are being used to attract jobs and whether the incentives are actually working.•

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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