Does Amazon’s HQ2 project have a secret code name?

Is “Project Golden” the secret code name for Amazon’s second headquarters search?

That’s the name that surfaces in records released this week by Catawba County officials. Buried in the 504-page records dump is an Oct. 17, 2017 letter from Scott Millar, president of the county’s economic development office, to Amazon.

“It is with great enthusiasm the Hickory MSA submits the attached response for project Golden (HQ2),” Millar wrote to Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, referring to the metropolitan statistical area.

But on Friday, Amazon said the speculation about a code name is wrong.

“Mr. Golden was the name of the mail clerk to whom the submissions were to be addressed,” Amazon spokesman Sam Kennedy. “The project has always been referred to internally at Amazon as HQ2.”

There are often code names in jobs-incentives efforts, which remain confidential during states’ negotiations to lure companies. But the HQ2 project has been anything but typical.

Amazon launched a very public bidding frenzy in September when it solicited cities and regions to make their pitch to land the project, which the company says will create up to 50,000 high-paying jobs over time and invest $5 billion into a local economy.

The Triangle is the only one of four applications submitted from North Carolina to make the short list of 20 in January. Catawba County, Charlotte and the Triad were not chosen.

Although the competition has been highly publicized, offers of incentives and other considerations have remained mostly under wraps, with a few exceptions. Some states have voluntarily disclosed their offers, and others have done so in response to public records requests.

North Carolina, citing standard protocol, does not intend to release records while the process is still playing out. Catawba County apparently released its records because it is no longer in the running.

Catawba isn’t the first to call it Project Golden. Back in September, the city of Frisco, Texas and the Frisco Economic Development Corp. prepared a pitch to Amazon outlining a $300 million local incentive proposal for “Project Golden Headquarters (HQ2).”

Also that month, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the headquarters search had been dubbed Project Golden. Earlier this week, the Albuquerque Journal reported emails detailing New Mexico’s prospects that identify it as Project Golden. New Mexico, Frisco and Cleveland have been eliminated.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

This story has been updated to reflect Amazon’s clarification.