The governor was speaking to publishers and reporters with the Georgia Press Association during Publishers Day at the Capitol. He made the announcement as part of his appeal to the group to remain flexible to proposals to limit public access to information about industrial prospects until they have made the decision to come to Georgia.
He compared the current prospect to Kia Motors Co., the Korean automaker that built a plant in West Point that employs 3,000 and has a dozen suppliers in the state with a comparable number of workers.
The governor’s spokesman said he didn’t have information about either the type of industry or the part of the state being considered.
“The state of Georgia is in the final stages of negotiating what will, hopefully, be the largest new-business opportunity for the state of Georgia since Kia,” Deal said. “At the same time, we’re having our biggest competitor file open-records requests in order to determine what Georgia’s offer is going to be.”
While Deal is negotiating with the industrial prospect, his staff is negotiating with the Press Association on legislation introduced last year by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. The bill would exempt documents about offers of tax breaks, worker training and other freebies offered by the state until after the prospective company publicly announces its intention to locate in Georgia or not. The publishers want the information made available to the public 10 days before the formal announcement so members of the public can gauge the impact on them.
The governor argues that other states don’t have similar laws requiring most documents -- including internal files, letters and emails -- to be available to the public upon request. He likened trying to negotiate under such a system to playing cards.
“When your competitor knows what cards you’re holding and you don’t know what cards they’re holding, this is a very competitive game,” he said.
Otis Rayburn, publisher of the Rome News-Tribune and president of the Press Association, said most publishers aren’t interested in spoiling the state’s chances of attracting new employers since newspapers need a strong economy, too. And he said instances are rare in which media outlets use the state’s Open Records Act to gain sensitive information during negotiations.
“I think we’re open to a compromise,” he said.