How much leeway should employees in the Utah Division of Economic Development have in trying to attract new business into the state?

That question was the focus of the Utah Economic Development Board, which had a lengthy discussion over whether staff members overstepped their authority in committing some money to a Taiwan company that has nearly completed a building at the Salt Lake International Center.At the end of the Tuesday meeting, most of the board members agreed the controversy was the result of a lack of communication and the need to act quickly to get Compeq to locate in Utah after the company was thoroughly committed to Ohio.

The matter was so important the board invited David W. Adams, former executive director of the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, to discuss the matter since most of the events occurred when he was in office.

In the end, the board, with John Price and Bonnie Miller dissenting, approved giving Compeq $50,000 to help pay some costs connected with issuing a $1 million industrial revenue bond. Price said that because division employees have so much latitude in spending the state's money there probably is no need for the board to exist.

Price said he wasn't objecting to giving incentives to companies to help them expand into Utah because there is a need for new business, but was objecting to the lack of communication between the employees and the board and letting the board commit the state's money.

Adams said that in 1989 an employee in the state's economic development office in Taiwan notified state officials that Compeq, a company that produces laminated circuit board for computers, was going to open a plant in Ohio and wondered how far Utah officials would go to offer Compeq some incentive to locate in Utah.

In a letter dated April 7, 1989, Adams told board member Ellis Ivory that he committed $50,000 to Compeq for industrial revenue bond insurance. He said the state needs special incentives to attract business to the state and recommended the board approve the payment.

Ivory said the matter was discussed by the Special Opportunities Committee, but never did come to a vote.

Price said it isn't the board's responsibility to clean up the staff's problems. He believes the money should have come out of Compeq's bond total and objected to the way things were handled, especially since many other important companies contemplating locating in Utah are asking for incentives.

H. Roger Boyer, committee chairman, said that now the matter has been settled by approval of the $50,000, staff members should keep the board better informed.