The team putting the redevelopment together asked me to hold my story for two weeks to allow them time to get a new equity partner. They made a persuasive case that premature publicity could have caused other partners to back out of the project, killing it altogether. I agreed and reported the story two weeks later when a new equity partner was secured. A decade later, all of the participants in the deal, including the city, seem quite happy with its outcome.
Other deals, however, demand thorough and timely reporting – with great risk to the public if such deals are not fleshed out in advance.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber in 2008 sought more than $1 million in upfront payments to Tennessee-based Spheris in exchange for creating a 1,000-employee, work-at-home transcription operation with an average salary of $36,000.
The company, however, had losses totaling $2.8 million two years earlier. I reported that loss, the company’s instability, and the questions were brought up when the incentives were up for a final vote by the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust.
The deal never advanced any further. Spheris filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy less than two years later and its assets were sold in a public auction.
Maybe both sides of this debate are correct. It’s a balancing act that if anything will get more difficult.