Cleveland’s Amazon HQ2 pitchers need to come out of hiding and tell us what they offered: editorial

January 21, 2018 GMT

Cleveland’s Amazon HQ2 pitchers need to come out of hiding and tell us what they offered: editorial

What does Columbus know about economic attraction that Cleveland doesn’t? What could Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have done better, smarter, faster, and by thinking more outside the box, to do the obvious -- be Amazon’s top choice for an Ohio location for its much-ballyhooed HQ2?

The Columbus bid -- pitching its educated workforce, a property tax abatement wherever Amazon invests, a rebate of up to $400 million in payroll taxes over 16 years to encourage maximum job creation and the city’s agreement to set aside another 25 percent of Amazon payroll taxes to create a transit and mobility fund -- made Amazon’s short list of 20.

Cleveland’s still-secret bid did not make the cut.

Amazon announces 20 contenders for HQ2 project; Cleveland’s out, but Columbus still is in

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cleveland has a great lake, the emerald necklace, skiing, three major professional sports teams (baseball, basketball and football), world-class art and music, the largest U.S. theater district outside New York City, low cost of living, manageable traffic, space scientists at a NASA research center, a booming biotech center anchored by the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University and (compared with other Ohio cities) good public transit. Columbus has none of those things.

The one thing Cleveland didn’t have that Columbus did was the transparency and confidence in its pitch to talk publicly about details of the proposal.

Was that because the public and private officials behind Cleveland’s bid knew it might be inferior, run-of-the-mill and far too hurriedly cobbled together? Or was that because private interests were allowed to call the shots for what should have been a public-private endeavor in the public interest? Or because outrageous promises were made in the bid that they didn’t want to share?

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson need to step up to dispel these questions and clear the air by making public their bid now, without delay. That’s the only way to make sure Cleveland doesn’t stumble again.

Days after submitting their bid for the possible $5 billion Amazon headquarters prize, complete with 50,000 high-paying jobs, Columbus officials were making the media rounds to discuss details of their bid. An Oct. 20 story in the business journal Columbus Business First, that followed an editorial staff meeting with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and city Development Director Steve Schoeny, listed all the details cited earlier in this editorial about Columbus’ proposal.

Cleveland’s pitchers dug a hole and hid -- and are still hiding.

“The Cleveland proposal is proprietary information and therefore details will not be disclosed,” said an Oct. 19 news release from City Hall and Cuyahoga County and the other partners in the bid, including the Greater Cleveland Partnership, TeamNEO, JobsOhio, the state of Ohio and more than a dozen others. The bid was submitted by GCP and TeamNEO -- a possible clue on why it’s secret, since both are or represent business chambers of commerce.

But now that Cleveland is out of the running, it’s no longer proprietary, right?


On Thursday, when Amazon made it official that Cleveland was one of 218 bidders who hadn’t made the cut, Cleveland officials told Plain Dealer reporter Michelle Jarboe that the project team was reviewing with lawyers what if anything would be released.

A written statement from TeamNEO made it sound like, if it were up to TeamNEO, nothing would be released. It will remain “a protected business trade secret that will be deployed to benefit Cleveland in other nationally competitive economic-development discussions,” said the statement, as quoted by Jarboe.

Not allowing a post-mortem of where the bid was deficient would only be failure begetting failure. This community is bigger, stronger and smarter than that -- and we don’t want to repeat our mistakes. Release the proposal.

About our editorials: Editorials express the view of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer -- the senior leadership and editorial-writing staff. As is traditional, editorials are unsigned and intended to be seen as the voice of the news organization.

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