Columbia City Council approves IBM deal

Monday, May 24, 2010 | 9:15 p.m. CDT; updated 10:06 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Columbia resident Joan Beard voiced her concerns about the new IBM project coming to Columbia, including cost for the city, property taxes, the $1 proposed rent and the lack of transparency on the deal. "I'm glad IBM is coming," Beard said, "but is this the way?"

COLUMBIA — Residents applauded the decision to bring IBM to Columbia while denouncing the method that brought it here at a special City Council meeting Monday night.

"First, I'd like to say that I think it's wonderful that IBM is coming to Columbia," Joan Beard, a retired educator, said at the meeting. But Beard questioned the process the city took in courting IBM, asking if the city was held "hostage" in negotiations with IBM.


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"Where's the transparency?" Beard asked at the end of her presentation.

In response to queries about the transparency of the process, Mike Brooks, president of Regional Economic Development Inc., said it was just good business.

"How many companies tell their competitors what they are going to do?" Brooks said when questioned about IBM's need for confidentiality during the negotiation process.

If REDI or other city officials had shared news on the deal with IBM, competing cities might have been able to sweeten their offers and undermine Columbia. In addition, the confidentiality of the proceedings allowed Columbia and IBM to talk business, Brooks said.

"In some ways, this is the city's business," Brooks said.

In response to community outcry over the lack of transparency, Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill questioned REDI's use of secrecy, asking Brooks if this was a common way of conducting negotiations.

"I have never worked on a project where confidentiality was not a key part of the decision," Brooks replied.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz also questioned the secrecy surrounding IBM's entrance into the community.

"It seems like there's a culture of nondisclosure, of confidentiality," Sturtz said.

As the relationship with IBM moves forward, Sturtz asked if Columbia could expect a more transparent atmosphere from the company, including receiving a head count of employees for each IBM location in the U.S. Sturtz cited IBM's policy of only disclosing tallies of its employees worldwide, instead of releasing numbers for an individual facility. Not having those numbers could make it difficult for the city to accurately gauge the number of jobs created by the company in Columbia.

The council voted unanimously to approve the deal with IBM, with many lauding the amount of money the deal is expected to bring to the community.

IBM is projected to bring up to $660,000 in sales tax revenue when fully staffed, as well as an additional $700,000 in property tax revenue by 2014, Brooks said.

In addition to the monetary benefits, the IBM negotiations have also brought Columbia quite a bit of media coverage, Brooks said.

"We've had some of the best exposure you can possibly buy," Brook said, noting that this exposure was free of charge.

Council members also praised the work of those involved in the IBM negotiations.

"We want to thank all the folks who worked on this," Sturtz said. "Potentially, as we all know, this is a fantastic thing for the city."

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe echoed Sturtz's sentiments, praising IBM's entrance in Columbia.

"I think they're going to be a great, contributing member of the community," Hoppe said.

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Ray Shapiro May 25, 2010 | 1:17 a.m.

A piece of the "big picture:"

("Reality Check!
800 IBM jobs to be “created” in Missouri
What about the 14,000 IBM jobs lost?
IBM is marching into Columbia, Missouri
with a promise of creating 800 jobs.
Oh by the way, $28 million in tax incentives please.
This for a company that has billions in cash...Above all taxpayers must demand transparency and accountability from IBM. A link to an excellent article “IBM’s trail of broken promises” is here...")

(Report Comment)
Robert Jones May 26, 2010 | 2:18 p.m.

You want free press, just have the SWAT team enter another home. Really what does Columbia have to offer? A town full of 20,000 drunk college students. We have a few good hospitals, I'll give it that. I feel sorry for the people who work at University Hospital, they can't park in the garages close to the hospital during football games. Besides a Mizzou football team that can't seem to handle pressure. Crime in this town isn't too bad but it is scattered all around. You cannot pinpoint where a problem area is. Columbia is a great place. And all we need is IBM to come here and just to have someone shot in their parking lot for no good reason because everyone is focused on what is going on downtown. But we can put cameras down there to stop crime. You people are rediculous.

(Report Comment)

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