Amazon HQ bid to be hush-hush affair

Minnesota’s pitch for the new Amazon.com headquarters will be “dynamic,” the state’s top economic development official said Friday. But don’t expect details of what’s on the table to be made public.

Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Shawntera Hardy met privately with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and an executive from Greater MSP, a group that promotes business growth in the Twin Cities. They’re in the early stages of discussions about landing Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

Although Amazon invited the public competition for the expansion site, it wants any offers to remain under wraps.

“While the existence of the project is not confidential, certain aspects of the project and details regarding the company are confidential, proprietary and constitute trade secrets,” the company put in a request for proposals on Thursday. “Amazon will deliver a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement for execution at the appropriate time.”

Amazon insisted that any bids submitted by the Oct. 19 deadline be marked “confidential.” There is an expectation that those proposals will include offers of tax breaks, land considerations and regulatory accommodations to attract the company.

Hardy said Minnesota will meet the deadline for crafting a bid. But she hinted in a prepared statement that its components might be withheld from the public.

“As Amazon has requested that all proposals be kept confidential, additional details on Minnesota’s proposal would be inappropriate at this time,” Hardy said.

The Seattle-based company says HQ2 could eventually employ 50,000 people. Amazon is looking for a big metropolitan area known for its labor force and with sufficient infrastructure to accommodate a big boom.

Minnesota regularly provides tax credits and forgivable loans to companies that build or expand with the promise of high-paying jobs. More often than not, those details are published ahead of time or available upon request.

But there have been instances where officials have shielded information at the request of private entities.

In Dayton’s first term, his administration discussed one incentives proposal under a code name — “Project Fern” — before the pharmaceutical company agreed to waive the secrecy clause. In 2016, Dayton and state lawmakers worked to develop a subsidy package for a siding manufacturer under a nondisclosure agreement; it turned out to be Louisiana Pacific.

At the time, Dayton defended the secret negotiations as sometimes necessary in the chase for big development projects.

“And there’s no doubt in my mind that if anybody looks at it, if it comes to fruition, would say it’s a very sound investment by the state of Minnesota and a necessary one in the competitive situation we’re in with other states,” Dayton said then.