Sunday, February 06, 2011

Why we give economic development projects with code names

From the staff of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce ......

As we work with businesses, we are told a lot of information that must remain confidential. Sometimes projects involve a business trying to gain an edge over a competitor and sometimes they are trying to gain an edge over another facility in their own corporate entity.

To help keep projects confidential, code names are attached to the project.

I've seen projects give some unusual project code names. We worked with one site selection firm on a project and we kept the code name secret. We knew we were competing against another city in another state but we didn't know the name of the other city. Kansas Department of Commerce staff did a google alert on the project name and we found out the City of Grand Island Nebraska had discussed the project, by its code name, in a public meeting. Thanks to this, we then knew the entire incentive package that city was offer to the firm. Salina never got the project because the capital credit markets dried up when the recession hit. By not guarding the project name, we knew exactly what the competition was doing.

Project Searchlight was the code name for a big national project about 10 years ago that involved 1,000 jobs. It ended up somewhere in the south. I've seen project code names given based on a person's favorite NBA player or the home town of the ultimate decision maker.

Recent/current projects involve names like Project Acorn, Project Babysit, Project Pluto, etc.

We have one very active project (that Salina will get) where the company has one code name and locally we've given it another code name. This has been done to ensure that the other plants in the corporation will not realize Salina is getting a growth project until the last minute.

In Salina, the airport authority names their projects after golf courses that host PGA events in light of a passion for golf. Project Riveria was the code name for the FedEx building being built.

In our office, we decided to honor our wives by using their names. I'll not apologize for honoring our family members.

Is the system as transparent as it could be? No. I wish it were a more open process. But, we work with the imperfect system that exists in the global business world.

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