While cheating spouses get caught all the time because they can’t keep secrets, and even the ultra-tight-lipped Apple once left an unreleased iPhone 4 in a California bar, there’s one group of people who have no problem at all keeping ginormous secrets for very long periods of time – area economic development officials.

One great example of that is the case of ProKidney, a bio-tech company planning to invest $458 million for a new facility in Greensboro.

Even though many people were involved in the decision and government incentives are being ironed out in a process that lasts months, the secret did not spill out until the county clerk was forced by state law to quietly post a non-descript notice titled “Public Hearing Notice” on the county’s legal notices website, which at the end briefly mentions the, oh by the way, nearly half-billion dollar project request for incentives from the county after a bunch of legalese regarding state law and public hearings.

While economic development experts are fantastic at keeping secrets, Guilford County commissioners are absolutely terrible at it.  So how did nine loose-lipped commissioners never let a word escape regarding the biotech company’s plans?  Well, they hardly knew anything themselves.

Economic development officials keep secrets from each other when it’s called for and they keep plenty of secrets from elected officials as well.

Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch said that when commissioners are being asked to approve incentives, economic development officials don’t ever tell them details.

“They do several at one time and they use codenames,” he said. “They call them Project Cheetos or Project Lightening or something like that.”

Upchurch added that economic development officials only tell the commissioners the absolute minimum amount they need to know to consider whether the board is willing to approve the company’s incentives request.  He said that, in the case of what turned out to be ProKidney, they were told that it was “a biotech firm” and given the basic numbers regarding capital investment, jobs created and incentives requested.

But that’s it.

Even Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston – who runs the board that will approve the incentives package on Thursday, June 1 – had never heard the word ProKidney until the Rhino Times asked him about the company’s plans to come to Guilford County.

Like Upchurch, Alston only knew the project by its codename, though Alston added that such a large project stood out from the pack as the board discussed incentives behind closed doors with the area economic development officials.