Metro-East News

Two weeks later, region still won’t release details of its proposal to Amazon

Two weeks after the deadline passed, officials are still not releasing the St. Louis region’s proposal to attract Amazon’s second headquarters.

The bid could contain information ranging from site locations and building mockups to the size of tax breaks offered by Missouri and Illinois and plans for the development of Mississippi riverfront.

“Unfortunately, because of our (nondisclosure agreement) with Amazon, we cannot share the proposal,” Sheila Sweeney, the CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, which coordinated and submitted the proposal, told the St. Louis Business Journal.

But, Amazon didn’t bar bidders from providing details about their bids, according to the Seattle Times and Amazon’s own request for proposals. Instead, Amazon prohibited bidders from disclosing specific “confidential” or “proprietary” things about the company, as well as trade secrets.

Toronto and New Hampshire released their bids in full, but requests for the proposal to public bodies in Missouri and Illinois have yielded no results.

In a response to a request for a copy of the bid from the BND, the St. Louis Partnership said that it would need more time to vet and send the documents than it did to write them in the first place.

“Additional time is needed to collate, evaluate, redact if necessary, and prepare the documents for your inspection,” David Allison, the Partnership’s general counsel, wrote in a statement.

Bidders across the country had 43 days to respond to Amazon’s request for proposals since announcing it on Sept. 7.

But, in a letter dated Oct. 26, Allison wrote that the Partnership could supply the records “on or before December 29” — a 62-day time line, excluding three observed holidays.

The BND also sent a Freedom of Information Act request for the proposal to St. Clair County, which is included as a site in the bid. In response, Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Henning said the county needed to consult with another public body first and postponed responding with records for five business days.

At a County Board meeting on Oct. 30, St. Clair County Economic Development Director Terry Beach said he had no comment on releasing the proposal, which could contain information on potentially billions of dollars tax incentives from Illinois.

The next day, Beach wrote in an email that after speaking with Sweeney, the Partnership was planning this week to release “several items re our regional Amazon HQ2 proposal” that may include “a video and some site renderings.”

On Thursday, however, the Partnership declined to release any information.

St. Clair County does not possess a copy of the final proposal, Henning said in a letter dated on Wednesday. With no record to provide, he denied the paper’s request.

Amazon’s arrival would bring $5 billion of development and 50,000 workers with an average salary of $100,000 in what could be a dramatic overhaul of the regional economy and infrastructure on both sides of the Mississippi River. Amazon has said it received a total of 238 proposals from across the country.

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel

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