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Economic development official blames failure to land Toyota HQ on records law, despite its significant exemptions for business expansion 

Triangle Business Journal (5/6/2014): Richard Lindenmuth, interim CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., told the TBJ that the records law was to blame for Toyota choosing Texas over North Carolina for its new North American headquarters. 

The North Carolina Public Records Law provides broad exemptions for public agencies to withhold information related to the possible location of a specific business or industry during negotiations. Specifically the law says "... public records relating to the proposed expansion or location of specific business or industrial projects may be withheld so long as their inspection, examination or copying would frustrate the purpose for which such public records were created; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to permit the withholding of public records relating to general economic development policies or activities ..." 

Once the business or industry has either chosen to locate in North Carolina or decided on a site elsewhere, the information then becomes public. 

Richard Lindenmuth, interim CEO of the Economic Partnership of N.C., told the Triangle Business Journal that the law was a factor in the state losing Toyota's new North American headquarters to Texas. North Carolina was the company's second choice. 

"Why would a CEO ever let us know where they are looking if they are subject to public records," Lindenmuth told the business newspaper. "Texas knew, but we didn't. We can't even have an open, frank discussion about everything."

Lindenmuth went on to say that the records hampers corporate recruiters. "In a case like Toyota, they don't want anybody knowing about it until it's announced," Lindenmuth told the newspaper. "We've lost a number of deals because of that." 

Neither Toyota nor Texas officials have indicated publicly that Texas' open records law played any role in the company's decision to locate there.

Texas' law is similar to North Carolina's in that it exempts information related to economic development during negotiations, but once an agreement is reached the information becomes public. Both laws also exempt trade secrets in order to protect companies that do business with the state.The two laws can be compared using the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press' Open Government Guide

Read the TBJ article here

Jonathan Jones,
5/6/2014 2:35 PM