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Statement on economic development

April 23, 2013

I do not make it a common practice to editorialize on page one.
The situation regarding speculation of a legislative session involving a potential industrial project in Clay County needs to be addressed.
As of press time on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant remains the only person close to economic development who has commented publicly about such a project existing.
Here is what we know from Bryant’s comments on Monday.
There is likely going to be a special session called. No concrete date has been set, again as of press time on Tuesday. The nature of economic development is such that the session could be announced today, next week and there is always a chance that no session is called.
Reports first began to surface last week in the press when the Clarion Ledger reported a session date of April 29th and named West Point as the potential town for an industrial project.
The story went cold until yesterday when media outlets around the state once again ran reports that Bryant was planning to call a session. This time they had Bryant’s comments but were left without a definitive date.
These reports served to fuel speculation and rumor about the proposed Clay County project, but they offered little other substance.
During my time at the Daily Times Leader, I have been blessed to have been included in a number of meetings designed to educate the general public on economic development.
What I discovered through those meetings is a reality that sometimes conflicts with the natural inclinations of a journalist.
I found that when it comes to certain stages of economic development, what we don’t say and write is often more important than what we do say and write.
As a news organization, we are within our rights to pen articles about economic development. If we were to find out the name of a company and how many jobs they wanted to bring to our community, we could print it.
On the flip side of that coin lies the reality that a potential company is perfectly within its rights to walk away from our community if it thinks that confidentiality and trust has been breached at the local economic development level.
There begs the question for the journalist.
Do we print the scoop and compromise perhaps hundreds of hypothetical jobs for our citizens, or do we use self-restraint and allow those entrusted with economic development to do their jobs and close the deal?
The Daily Times Leader pledged in the fall, and we are reaffirming our pledge, to honor the confidential nature of economic development.
No scoop on this Earth is worth compromising jobs and a higher quality of life for our citizens.
Those who are to be close to any project within our county are bound by their confidential agreements not to talk until they are permitted to do so.
The information put forth by Gov. Bryant this week was certainly not rumor or conjecture, but the non-detailed comments resulted in a Tuesday of rumor and conjecture by many state and regional media outlets.
It’s the kind of rumor and speculation that could make an industry quite uncomfortable.
With a global economy comes global competitors, and that is why confidentiality is paramount.
We live in a county that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. With good reason, there has been a buzz and excitement going around this community in the last few days that we have not felt or heard in a long time.
This community has been patient, and it has kept its head above water when other towns that have lost industry have not been able to survive quite so well.
Now that jobs seem to be moving back into the equation, everyone naturally wants to know the what, when, how and where do we apply?
The ink has to be dry on a deal before we can pop the champaign bottles.
This town lives and breathes football, so I’m going to use a football analogy.
Let’s hold off on the victory celebration, or false start, and block for our economic developers while they try to take the ball across the goal line.
While we strive to bring our readers the latest breaking information on any story, our chief concern in this situation is making sure that this publication does not become a barrier between this town’s citizens and jobs.

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