Jul. 3—Oklahomans have to wonder why state officials are being secretive about a handshake deal to bring in an electric vehicle startup.
Canoo announced plans to build a plant in Pryor, Oklahoma to assemble pod-shaped vans called "lifestyle vehicles" — with the company's CEO telling Reuters it received an incentive package valued at more than $300 million to create more than 2,000 jobs.
Gov. Kevin Stitt and Canoo CEO Tony Aquila said the facility will be a 400-acre campus in MidAmerica Industrial Park — a 9,000-acre industrial complex near some of the nation's most highly traveled thoroughfares.
The mega microfactory — presumably a small dimension factory with lots of employees — is set to open in 2023 with a paint, body shop, and general assembly plant and produce more than 150,000 vehicles a year.
"Canoo will transform our workforce, bringing over 2,000 high-paying jobs to the state and accelerating the evolution of our economy," Stitt wrote in an guest editorial for the Washington Examiner.
If everything works out as planned, this will provide a boon for Oklahoma's job market and economy, plus benefits of leading in another sector of energy.
It sounds like a good thing for our state — so why do state officials still refuse to release details on public money used on the incentives package to bring in Canoo?
State leaders refuse to confirm any details about the deal.
So CNHI News filed an open records request seeking information about incentives, details about jobs that will be created and any agreements about employee pay.
The Department of Commerce denied the request — citing a provision of state law meant to protect business plans, feasibility studies, financing proposals, marketing plans, financial statements or trade secrets, proprietary information for the purpose of business development or customized training and related confidentiality agreements and information.
Stitt said the information was "private" — but acknowledged using the taxpayer-funded Governor's Quick Action Closing Fund to help close the deal.
However he didn't say how much he spent of that $20 million fund.
That's a lot of public dollars on the table the governor refuses to say how he spent.
Plus, Canoo is a start-up company that hasn't manufactured electric vehicles yet — making it a risk of those public dollars.
We hope Canoo follows through and that the governor at least got some clawback provisions just in case it doesn't.
Commerce Department officials said details will be made public later, showing a lack of urgency or preparation in telling the public how much of its money the governor spent to lure the company.
We understand business deals and negotiations are made behind closed doors for an array of reasons. Details being released at certain times could leave either side vulnerable in other negotiations or even kill the deal.
But this is a business deal using taxpayer money.
Stitt bragged in the Washington Examiner op-ed about the deal — again leaving out details — and the potential it brings for our state's economy and brightening the future.
"When Oklahomans hired me, they demanded a turnaround," Stitt wrote. "Through the ups and downs, my confidence has never wavered in Oklahoma's ability to lead the nation in everything we do, from business to energy to innovation."
Great. Now tell us how much of our money you used on the Canoo deal.
—McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board