Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Double-Secret Developer Double-Talk

Steve Rust, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Economic Development Council (FEDC ), gave aldermen a short history on the development council and a lesson on how economic development works, using the example of Project Shining Star, the super secret code name he gave to his biggest project failure so far. Perhaps it was the only project attempted, since all information is kept secret from the public and the city council.

Rust claimed the project would have included an investment of $200 million and the creation of 400 jobs, but he maintained that he still does not know the name of the company. Earlier Rust told the Northwest Arkansas Times that company would have employed 200 people, but now he claims he lost 400 jobs.

The city doesn’t have its own master plan for economic development. Rust told aldermen that the competitive nature of economic development requires a private organization, such as FEDC, that can operate outside the public eye and is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. That way, nosy citizens, public officials, and reporters could have no information about what the group is trying to do in our community. In an email, Rust bragged that “our decision to give ‘some’ information to the local paper in an effort to keep them from digging, has worked.” Everyone should expect more deceptive actions like that in the future.

Rust said the governing body of the FEDC includes Mayor Dan Coody, Phillip Stafford for the UA, and Matt Bodishbaugh, of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. Other board members are those who pay enough money to get a seat on the board. All seem to agree on keeping the public in the dark. The FEDC said they were having trouble attracting a major industry because of impact fees that require businesses to pay their fair share for infrastructure and the lack of land that the city could offer to a major industry. They didn’t say who should pay for the infrastructure or the land given to a corporation, but you and I know who would pay.

By the way, I almost landed a major employer with 600 high tech jobs. I don't know the name of the corporation, and I wouldn't tell you if I knew. Keep paying me.

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