A new bill that would exempt some economic development information from public viewing is supposed to protect local development corporations from losing out on deals and possible litigation, according to Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.
The House bill, sponsored by Anna Crook, R-Clovis, has been criticized by some as denying public information regarding public money, but Crook believes the bill is beneficial to the promotion of local development.
“It is only in the time of negotiation,” said Crook about when certain documents would be exempt from inspection of the public eye. “As soon as (a negotiation’s) been made, it’s public information again,” Crook said.
Information that would involve things such as incentives for businesses or financial documents disclosed when negotiations take place would be exempt. The bill has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.
“We are always looking for opportunities for job creation. It’s to protect incentives to attract businesses,” Crook said. “It’s for people that are trying to attract business to their area.”
Gentry said as a member of the New Mexico Industrial Development Executive Association, he worked on this bill with Crook to clarify what information would be protected.
“It only exempts specific items that could cause harm to the company or person,” said Gentry, using financial records and credit reports as examples.
He added that often times when businesses are looking to locate to the area, his corporation is asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, so he said this only solidifies in law what they already agree to not disclose.
He said if financial records or personal information about a company was leaked, regardless of whether they chose to locate here, it can pose a legal liability to the corporation and the community.
But Gentry said the main objective of the bill is to prevent other communities competing for a business to locate in their area access to local incentive packages.
“It’s good business practice, you want to keep that offer confidential,” Gentry said. “The bill addresses that some other state can’t get a copy of what we’re offering.”
Gentry said this bill wouldn’t have affected a deal gone sour with Beauty Health and Science Innovations, but will help them by identifying any problems with a prospective company by keeping that information confidential.
BHSI was attracted to Clovis with $1.8 million in municipal economic development money that went to the company in return for its coming to eastern New Mexico. In return, BSHI promised to provide hundreds of jobs and bring millions of dollars to the area.
The city foreclosed on BHSI in November, hoping to recoup some of its loss.
Gentry said the goal of the legislation is not to create any more secrecy but to guarantee confidentiality to prospective companies acting as the marketing and recruiting leg of the area.
“The bill doesn’t change the process, all it does is clarify things that will be exempted,” Gentry said. “We’ve always operated on the assumption on that’s how we do business. When we put in proposals, we have to honor their confidentiality. It’s always been this way, except everything is spelled out.”
Roosevelt County Community Development Corp. Director Doug Redmond says he understands that if other competing communities know of your incentive package, they may change theirs to be competitive. But overall, he doesn’t feel Roosevelt County will be affected by this legislation.
“I think it’s pretty standard with what other states have. Companies want to have their information protected,” Redmond said. “The projects I’m working on are pretty specific to being in Portales though. We have a good sense of what the community wants.”