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 to state and local incentive program evaluation and performance reporting. The major theme was making sure that reported results are connected to the community’s economic development goals. Key performance questions include:

  • Is the incentive program helping us meet our economic development objectives?
  • Are our incentive programs a good way of meeting those objectives?
  • Are the programs effective (do what they are supposed to do)?
  • Are they efficient (a good way to use our limited resources)?

    A lack of access to good data makes it difficult to answer these questions and can hinder quality evaluations and reporting. Some states are taking important steps to improve data sharing to address these challenges.

    Jeffrey Van Hulten of the Governor’s Office of Economic development in Utah used his presentation to address three pieces of legislation designed to improve access to tax records to enable better reporting on tax incentive use.

    Rachel Vilsack of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development addressed her group’s performance management work, including careful and secure use of employment and wage data from business unemployment insurance records to enable economic development program performance reporting.

    You can learn more about these topics and the C2ER Annual Conference here. It was a great program, and we hope to see you at next year’s conference in Atlanta!