By Nathan M. Jensen and Calvin Thrall
University of Texas
Commentary in Austin American-Statesman
Originally published Feb. 6, 2019
Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, the so called HQ2, should make Texans concerned about the lack of transparency of economic development. Many cities have not released their HQ2 bids to the public, even though the competition is now complete. In Texas, none of our cities including Austin, Dallas and Houston has released its bid.
But this lack of transparency is not limited to the competition for Amazon. Economic development policy is largely shielded from the public by Texas public records laws. This allows state and local governments to withhold economic development information and for companies to directly challenge these requests.
We learned this firsthand when we requested data on the Texas Enterprise Fund, or TEF, which is the flagship economic development incentive program that provides grants to individual companies in exchange for agreements on capital investment, job creation and wages in Texas.