• What are we achieving with our incentive program spending? How do we get the right data on program outcomes? We tackled these hot topics at last week’s C2ER Annual Conference. Economic development leaders are eager to demonstrate incentive effectiveness, but the question often is, “effective at what?” Unfortunately, many incentive programs lack a clear statement of purpose or explanation of expected outcomes. Figuring out what to measure and report on related to incentives outcomes is frequently a challenge. Remarks by Ellen Harpel of Smart Incentives provided the big picture related...

  • If you are thinking about how to deploy a dashboard for your economic development organization, take a good look at the new Performance Metrics platform from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). Dashboards like this are a popular way to share information on government program performance. Economic development organizations are increasingly developing their own dashboards or transparency portals to provide better data on incentive use and program outcomes. The TNECD Performance Metrics platform’s purpose, according to COO Ted Townsend, is to “serve as a valuable resource for...

  • Economic development leaders gathered recently to consider the implications of forthcoming tax abatement disclosures. While considering tax abatement disclosure guidelines in relation to our work as economic developers and the nuts and bolts of reporting and compliance, we spent most of our time on communication - specifically how best to talk to colleagues, elected officials and the public about disclosed data. From the Smart Incentives perspective, we suggest the following: Do now Communicate with government finance staff and/or budgetary officials to share data Consider how multiple stakeholders will use and react to the disclosed...

  • We are going back to basics this week. I recently presented a workshop on incentives at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College focused on balancing the need to maximize economic outcomes with the judicious and transparent use of public funds. Among the takeaways: Incentive Basics and Trends Incentives are tools that help us achieve our community’s economic development goals. Smart incentive use is not just about winning a deal. Lines are blurring between traditional business incentives and development finance programs. Tax credits are the largest single category of state incentive, but...

  • Reporting and disclosure on incentive use sounds easy, but poses a huge challenge to many local governments. A new report from Good Jobs First reviews the online disclosure practices of 50 of the nation’s biggest counties and cities. Here are some of the takeaways: Study authors reviewed one or two programs each in 50 localities, selecting those that are the most costly, most frequently used, and/or most controversial. Among 85 of programs that could be rated, only 35 of those disclose some company-specific information and could be described as “transparent.” To...

  • There are literally thousands of state and local incentive programs, many of which are – at least on paper – intended to help people in need or places that have been left behind. Here are several ways in which incentives are designed to achieve the goals of inclusive and equitable economic development. People-based strategies The Policy Agenda for All-In Cities from PolicyLink proposes several strategies for equitable economic development that can be connected to incentive policies, programs, and practices. A set of those strategies is intended to encourage activity to create good...