Why isn't the Rochester-Buffalo Amazon bid public?

Jan 19, 2018

The leaders who put together Rochester’s proposal to Amazon say they will not release it to the public. That means taxpayers won’t find out how much public money was offered to the Seattle-based company.

“We do not have plans at this point to make our proposal public,” said Matt Hurlbutt, CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise, which coordinated the proposal to Amazon on a local level.

Hurlbutt pointed out that state leaders crafted the tax incentives, and it would be up to New York State to publicly release that portion of the bid. State leaders tell WXXI News that no disclosure will be forthcoming.

That puts Rochester in line with almost every other city that failed to make Amazon’s cut. Other states and cities - like Cleveland - are claiming that releasing their bids would hurt their ability to be competitive in future negotiations with other companies.

“You keep those cards as you negotiate,” Hurlbutt said.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is being spent,” said Bob Duffy, CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. But Duffy added that because the Rochester bid failed, taxpayers wouldn’t need to see the bid, because no public money will end up being spent.

“Listen, I’m all about full disclosure,” Duffy said while defending the decision to withhold the Amazon bid. “I think if New York State puts out what they’re going to bid, New Jersey, Pennsylvania – they’ll see that, they’ll up (their own bids) some.”

But New Jersey has already disclosed what they’re offering Amazon – $7 billion in tax breaks if Amazon chooses Newark. Amazon’s recent cut did include Newark.

WXXI News plans to file a freedom of information request in the matter.