Huntsman Drops Incentives Secrecy Plan

Huntsman Drops Incentives Secrecy Plan

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman has dropped a plan to withhold information on incentives offered to companies to open or expand operations in Utah.

"We want the public to have the opportunity to see upfront what kind of incentives we are offering for different types of projects," Huntsman's chief economic adviser, Chris Roybal, said Tuesday.

Last week, the Huntsman administration sought an attorney general's opinion on whether the state could stop divulging the amounts of incentives being offered to companies.

The state considered disclosing only the funding given to companies that accept the terms and move to Utah.

However, on Tuesday, Roybal said the state is talking about ways to provide even greater public disclosure of incentives and what the state is getting in return.

"There is a lot of concern about how states spend incentive dollars," Roybal told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We'd like to see a higher level of scrutiny."

Last week, Roybal had argued that some companies do not want states to disclose incentives being offered until the firm finalizes expansion plans. Public disclosure too early in the process can prompt a company to locate elsewhere, he said.

In addition, keeping amounts of incentives private also would minimize prospects of other states trying to top Utah's offers.

Industrial Assistance Fund money is doled out at monthly meetings of the state Board of Business and Economic Development.

Up to now, the board always has divulged the amount it offered to companies. Sometimes the amount has been accompanied by a recipient's name. In other cases, the names of recipient companies have remained sealed until after they committed to build or expand in the state.

Roybal said the governor will appoint new board members and hire a new incentives manager to fill a position vacated when several economic development staff members were terminated after Huntsman took office.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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