It’s the new year and we still have a few minutes to think about strategy. Soon enough we’ll be in the middle of projects and daily crises. Before that happens, consider adding these three tasks to your annual plan. We promise your incentive program will be better off as a result.   

Review the incentives portfolio

Are your incentive programs still helping your community accomplish its economic development objectives? Or were they designed to solve the economic challenges of another time? Do they meet the current needs of the businesses you are targeting? (Hint: how are they helping companies find talent?) Take a day to look at the full slate of incentive offerings to figure out if program guidelines should be updated, under-utilized incentives could be eliminated, and if new initiatives are needed. 

Fine-tune incentives data collection

Are you getting the information you need on incentive results? Refresh incentive compliance and reporting documents to make sure they are asking the right questions to gather the data you need to answer questions about outcomes and effectiveness. At a minimum, companies should report on contractually required milestones. Reporting forms can also request limited amounts of additional information to determine the incentivized project’s effect on other community priorities, such as sustainability, local hires, job quality, and equity.

Revisit incentives communication 

Are you still issuing a PDF annual report and calling it a day? More people are talking about incentives, but they often lack basic information on how incentives work and the context in which they are used. This year, think about news ways to share information about incentive program use in your community, especially if equitable economic development is a priority. Options range from opening a direct dialogue with community leaders to conducting media background briefings to sharing searchable project information online to expanding social media presence. Smart Incentives will be devoting resources to this topic in 2020, so please reach out if this is a challenge area for your community.