• 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...

  • Data sharing has the potential to change the way states manage incentive program compliance and evaluation efforts. Data sharing “is a formal process by which state agencies that collect and manage administrative records, such as corporate income tax and unemployment insurance records, may grant other government agencies and outside researchers access to microdata within those records to support authorized activities.” The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) has created the State Data Sharing Initiative to identify ways that economic and workforce development programs can safely and securely access administrative data...

  • States “have made progress in gathering evidence on the results of their economic development tax incentives,” but challenges remain for policy leaders seeking to understand and improve economic development outcomes. Ellen Harpel of Smart Incentives and Josh Goodman from The Pew Charitable Trusts discussed “Evaluating and Improving Tax Incentives” as part of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s seminar on Economic Perspectives on State and Local Taxes. Goodman presented Pew’s latest report on the subject, How States Are Improving Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth. 27 states and the District...

  • A new report from the Urban Institute assesses how the synthetic control method can be used for economic development policy evaluation. The synthetic control method (SCM) creates “a synthetic control region that simulates what the outcome path of a region would be if it did not undergo a particular policy intervention.” The method involves creating a “hypothetical counterfactual region” based on combined predictor variables from specified “donor regions” – such as other states – and comparing outcome variables. It is considered a useful quantitative supplement to qualitative case studies because...

  • 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...