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TODAY'S QUESTION: Should the IBM deal have been conducted the way it was?

Thursday, July 1, 2010 | 10:12 a.m. CDT

IBM's demand for secrecy and speed dominated its negotiations with the city of Columbia.

Regional Economic Development, Inc., the organization responsible for negotiating with IBM, used the Columbia Area Jobs Foundation to cater to the company's requests. The jobs foundation is a private, charitable organization, so it doesn't need public approval in order to purchase land or negotiate with companies. It isn't considered a governmental body, so the jobs foundation is not required to keep the public informed of its actions like the City Council is.

Little Dixie Construction, the company in charge of renovating the building IBM is moving into on LeMone Industrial Boulevard, chose all of the subcontractors for the project without any type of public bidding process.

REDI said it also used the jobs foundation as a way to accommodate IBM's demand for a speedy process. The jobs foundation isn't subject to the development policies and procedures the City Council has to follow. Because of this, REDI and the jobs foundation were able to guarantee that IBM would be able to inhabit its Columbia building by Nov. 1.

REDI and the city insist this process was the only way to bring IBM to Columbia. They say IBM wouldn't have agreed to consider Columbia if the city hadn't been able to guarantee complete confidentiality, as well as the fast-tracked time frame for setting up shop.

Do you think the city made the right decision in meeting IBM's demands? Should the city have insisted on giving the public more information or slowing down the process?


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