Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles called today for opening the books on the general operation of the Center for Innovative Technology planned near Dulles International Airport.
"CIT should come out of the closet," Baliles said, adding that the secrecy that has surrounded the project is partially responsible for the confusion and criticism that have plagued the CIT since its inception two years ago.
The new president of the center, Ronald E. Carrier, joined Baliles in calling for relaxing regulations that exempt the project from the state's Freedom of Information Act.
"There is no good reason to cloak all of its activites and to pretend that the outside world does not exist," Baliles said at a news conference here at which he introduced Carrier.
"Since it is not a public agency, and because of the confidential status of research and industry negotiations, the exemption [to the information law] seemed reasonable and valid" when the center was formed, Baliles said. "I believe that is still required for research, trade and proprietary information, but I'm increasingly of the view that the time has come to reexamine the need for total exemption."
Baliles said he will ask Carrier and the CIT board to identify which "activities would not be compromised by public review" and to tell him by Dec. 1.
Critics of the project, including some Democratic legislators, earlier suggested that the General Assembly should withdraw the information law exemption.
The governor said problems at the center arise from misunderstandings about its purpose, structure and funding.
"The mission of CIT is to take new ideas out of classroom and laboratories and put them into factories and marketplaces of this country," he said.
He explained that the center "is a private, nonprofit corporation chartered by the General Assembly to bridge the gap between idea and reality in the developing fields of technology." It is run by a board of directors appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, which hires the president.
Baliles, who visited the center's temporary headquarters last week, called for ground to be broken by September on its permanent buildings, with completion by April 1988.
He said "zoning concerns" and "questions about access to Rte. 28 have been, or are about to be, resolved." Some of the zoning problems result from the property being on the Fairfax-Loudoun county line, he said.
Carrier took a one-year leave of absence Friday from the presidency of James Madison University to take the $100,000-a-year CIT post, which has been vacant since Robert H. Pry resigned last month.
Carrier is not going to the center "because it's in serious trouble," he said today. "It's not a turkey," he said in response to a question. "It's creative and innovative."
The $23.7 million building will be funded by $11.7 million that is available, with interest, from $30 million in "seed money" appropriated by the General Assembly when the center was chartered in 1984. The CIT board Friday asked the Virginia Supplemental Retirement System for a $12 million mortgage for the balance.
The rest of the seed money is being used to fund research projects by state universities and private industries, including $5 million jointly with the Software Productivity Consortium, which CIT supporters say was wooed to Virginia because of the center.
Once its problems are solved and its purpose resolved, Baliles said, "The CIT can be a corporate version of Thomas Alva Edison, and the discoveries can be just as profound and illuminating in the closing years of this century."