NFOIC’s latest research explores transparency in state and local economic development incentives

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information are pleased to announce the publication of NFOIC’s latest research paper, “Invisible Incentives: How Secrecy Impedes Evaluation and Accountability of Economic Development Subsidies.”  

Secrecy in economic development spending remains a big challenge for journalists and the public at every level of government. Details of many state and local jurisdictions’ incentive packages to attract Tesla, Foxconn, and Amazon’s HQ2 have still not been disclosed. And now, the federal CARES Act, where the names and amounts of more than four million recipients of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans remain undisclosed.*  

Every year, state and local governments award an estimated $70 billion in subsidies to attract and retain businesses. But details of these deals are often withheld until just before they are approved, and some incentive-package values are never disclosed. Public officials and economic development authorities have claimed disclosing the information jeopardizes current and future deals.

Invisible Incentives examines the practice of offering public financial and in-kind incentives to attract and retain companies and jobs in communities –mostly without public oversight. Using examples from different states and municipalities, the paper explores what measures can be taken to improve the evaluation of the deals, how to make state and local governments and economic development authorities accountable and argues in favor of having the public more involved in the decision making process.

*A federal judge last week ordered the Small Business Administration to release the names and loan amounts for all Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients by Nov. 19.



The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects your right to open government. Our mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings. We are a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of state and regional affiliates representing 39 states and jurisdictions including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Through our programs, services and national member network, NFOIC promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms, dispute resolution, and litigation (when needed) to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions. NFOIC is located at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and works closely with its neighbor, the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information

ABOUT Brechner Center

The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications exists to advance understanding, appreciation and support for freedom of information in the state of Florida, the nation and the world. In addition, The Brechner Center serves the public with information about the First Amendment, freedom of information, and access to government information issues. The Brechner Center answers queries about media law from journalists, attorneys, and other members of the public. The Center is prepared to explain issues relating to media law, provide educational and training materials, react to current developments, and offer speakers for meetings and conferences.