It’s been an exciting year at Smart Incentives with several great projects, multiple webinars and presentations that generated energetic conversations, and the opportunity to collaborate with outstanding partners. The Smart Incentives blog also garnered a lot of attention this year. Here is a recap of our most popular blog posts from 2015.

1. What will tax abatement disclosures mean for economic development groups

State and local governments will begin disclosing financial information about tax abatements under new guidance from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The requirements take effect for financial statements for periods beginning after December 15, 2015.

2. The but-for question in business incentives

“But for” refers to a determination of whether incentives are essential for a project to be initiated or completed or whether incentives induce a company to invest where it otherwise would not have. It seems obvious that incentives should only be used when they absolutely have to be used – when a project would not occur “but for” the incentive. But this phrase causes a lot of problems, and its role can easily be misunderstood and exaggerated. Worst of all, it inadvertently leads us to emphasize several of the aspects of incentives we like least: playing one location against another and discounting the value of all our other community attributes in investment decisions. Here are a few ideas from our work on the topic.

3. Three things the Mercedes HQ move tells us about incentives

Mercedes-Benz USA announced it would move its headquarters from Montvale, NJ to the Atlanta area, bringing at least 800 jobs to Georgia. While large incentive packages dominated the discussion related to other recent automotive headquarters moves, the Mercedes move shows a more nuanced view of incentives’ role in location decisions.

4. Ideas for improving incentive reports 

Elected officials and community groups are demanding better data from economic development organizations on incentive use.  But reporting on incentives is more difficult than releasing a tally of projects and dedicated dollars. This post offers ideas for improving communication on incentives.

5. New report on state of state business incentives 

C2ER recently completed its annual update of the State Business Incentives Database. The Database now reflects the present status of the more than 1,900 state business incentives in operation around the country.The State of State Business Incentives 2015 report summarizes the findings from this review. Most striking is the overall growth in the number of state business incentive programs. The report also takes a closer look at the different types and purposes of business incentive programs administered by states and how state incentive portfolios have changed over the past few years in response to recent economic trends.