|WRTV's Investigative Reporter|
Indianapolis' job commitment claims may be more wishful thinking than reality after a six-week investigation of claims made in January by Mayor Greg Ballard and Develop Indy, the city’s economic development arm.To see the rest of the article and view the video, click here. I would especially advise viewing the video. The Mayor keeps repeating the "paradigm" talking point over and over again in response to Kenney's questions and then gets frustrated and walks away when Kenney won't accept that as an answer.
In January, the city announced that it had secured 8,737 new job commitments from 73 companies in 2010, touting the number as the highest number of new job commitments in a decade.
6News' Kara Kenney found that less than a quarter of the commitments are enforceable.
Twenty-two percent of the now 72 companies have a written agreement with Indianapolis to receive tax breaks, meaning that the city can hold the company accountable if the jobs don't come to fruition.
That means that 1,634 of the more than 8,700 job commitments have a written agreement with Indianapolis. Twenty-two of the 72 companies have no written agreement at all with the city or state.
Records indicated that nine of the 72 companies didn't promise new jobs, only jobs to be retained in Indianapolis.
Companies that have written agreements with the city have between two and 10 years to bring the job promises to fruition.
The mayor’s press office declined 6News requests to sit down with Mayor Greg Ballard to discuss job commitment figures, so 6News caught up with him at a public event Thursday.
Ballard defended the city's figures, saying he does not feel they are misleading.
"That's the paradigm we inherited. That's what the previous administration did. That's what the city has done for a long time," Ballard said.
Some of the city's listed job commitments have written agreements with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, not the city, although both sides said they work together on bringing jobs to the area.
"Everything starts locally anyway. They're in the city of Indianapolis. We work with the state all the time," Ballard said. "Kara, it's the paradigm."
Ballard walked away before 6News could ask more questions, including how many jobs he feels realistically will come to fruition.
6News requested documentation showing what Develop Indy did to recruit those 72 companies.
Develop Indy provided a spreadsheet that said they’ve helped companies with grants, data analysis, workforce assistance, site selection and bonds.
Develop Indy representatives said providing any other documentation would be considered competitive information that could be used against the city when it comes to economic development.
[Morton Marcus, former director of the Indiana Business Research Center] predicts that about 30 percent of the 8,700 jobs will actually come through, citing the economy as one reason. Marion County has lost 35,000 jobs since December 2007.
The Mayor had to be cornered at a public event because the Mayor's press office refused to make him available to answer questions about the job commitment claims. Develop Indy officials, meanwhile, for some reason, thinks they doesn't have to reveal public information showing what work it is actually doing for all the taxpayer dollars the non-profit receives.
It should also be noted that just because a job promise is in writing does not mean it is legally enforceable. To constitute a "contract" and thus be legally enforceable, there has to be an offer, acceptance and consideration. I remember pointing out that the the ACS 200 job promise was intentionally put in a letter and not included in the parking contract. Deputy Mayor Mike Huber said that was because it wasn't related to the parking meters. It was total BS. The contract already had stuff in it unrelated to parking (e.g. the battery recycling program). A contract can include whatever the parties wish to contract about...there is no requirement that different subject matter requires a different written agreement.
The truth is the ACS parking contract has an incorporation clause saying there was no outside agreements between the City and ACS that was not in the contract. The 200 job promise by ACS in a separate letter, without any consideration, is completely unenforceable. Don't think ACS and city officials didn't know that.
Even if the City could enforce a written job commitment, would they do it? The City has a host of written agreements with companies that the City has never sought to enforce.
What has always rankled me is that reporters so often simply accept as true whatever numbers they are spoon fed by politicians, and never question those numbers. Fortunately in this case WRTV and Kenney were willing to go beyond simply repeating the numbers they were given and actually did some investigative journalism. Terrific job.