Clark wasn't on the stage or with the herd of dignitaries packed next to it. Instead he found a spot back by the long line of television cameras recording the big moment.
It was quite the contrast, really, because it was Clark who greased Honda's Hoosier entry. The automaker hired Clark's law firm, Baker and Daniels, as winter turned to spring, to plant a new assembly plant in the fertile Midwestern industrial soil.
Honda showed remarkable savvy in picking one of the state's top-shelf law firms, one that happens to employ the ex-state senator and current state Republican Party chairman. Honda chose well since Gov. Mitch Daniels and Clark know each other well from Republican politics.
Both made it clear they kept politics out of the economic development effort. The governor was careful to note the state didn't hire Baker and Daniels. Honda did.
And Clark made sure to explain he could separate his jobs. "You guys are confusing my night job with my day job," he said of the potential to mix politics with lawyering.
While Manus and other local officials didn't know Honda was the secret suitor until Daniels spilled the beans May 16, Clark has known all along. It's a testament to his discretion that word didn't leak. That's even more remarkable when you consider the task: persuading farmers to sell their land on faith.
"It's unusual when you try to buy 1,700 acres of property that's not for sale and tell people you can't tell them who wants to buy it," Clark said.
Just how discreet is Clark? Long after the governor, Manus and all the Honda brass left the podium Wednesday, I asked Clark to disclose the state's pet name for the project. "Let me see if I can tell you," he said, then disappeared.
Thirty minutes later, the governor didn't hesitate to reveal the project's name: Zoom. "It was clear from the outset this would move at a very quick clip," Daniels said. "The name was indicative of the effort we put forth."
When I saw Clark again, I couldn't resist. I asked him to tell me about Project Zoom.
"Who told you that?" Clark asked.
He was still on the job. Loose lips sink big deals, especially when they turn on making the right connections with the right people at the right time.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Ketzenberger Credits Clark And Law Firm For Landing Honda
Star business columnist John Ketzenberger gives kudos to state GOP chairman J. Murray Clark and his law firm Baker & Daniels for their role as Honda's Indiana counsel in landing the $550 million plant. He also reveals that Gov. Daniels revealed the secret code name given to the project: Project Zoom. Ketzernberger writes: