The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is an agency that thrives on secrecy, so much so that big-name projects' real names aren't uttered until they're a done deal.
A Denmark windmill blade manufacturer's Little Rock plant was known around the office as "Project Zephyrus." When Hewlett-Packard Co. mulled a move to Conway for a new facility, proposals detailing the millions offered in state incentives simply referred to HP as "Project Sigma."
The secrecy, state officials say, is necessary to keep Arkansas in the hunt for major business projects. No company will come to the state if they fear that details of their internal operations will be splashed on the front pages of newspapers or lead the nightly local newscast.
Democracy and a free press, however, thrive on openness. So it's not anything new for the state's economic development arm and reporters to clash over access to information.
That rift appeared again in June as word leaked out of HP's decision to open a facility that will eventually employ 1,200 people in Conway. ArkansasBusiness.com was the first to report that HP was coming to Arkansas -- four days before the official news conference.
When the news got out, HP spokesmen and government officials from Gov. Mike Beebe on down declined on-the-record comment for the rest of the week.
Arkansas Economic Development Director Maria Haley appeared to criticize media for reporting on the development before it was announced, calling the leaks "extremely irresponsible."