Yes. In 2012, the chief executive of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Reed Hall, wrote a letter requesting a $200 million loan from the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, which manages the Wisconsin Retirement System public employee pension fund. Hall said the funds would be used to promote startup business growth.
The Department of Revenue has revoked $50,000 worth of tax credits from W.W. Grainger, a distributor of industrial and maintenance supplies, after the company failed to create promised jobs, sold subsidiaries employing hundreds of its workers and sent some jobs overseas.
In its first 15 months of existence, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded $126 million in incentives to 24 companies without a full financial review. Some deals turned out well, others have failed. The largest — up to $62.5 million in tax credits to Kohl’s Corp. — so far has not generated the number of jobs or amount of capital spending promised.
Snapshots of some of the 24 companies that got a piece of the $126 million in state taxpayer subsidies without full financial review from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, address criticism of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Both lawmakers are WEDC board members.
Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for accountability in economic development, generally recommends against taxpayer subsidies for retail companies such as Kohl’s Corp.
The group’s research director, Philip Mattera, said retail positions tend to be low-paid, part-time jobs.
While cities like Madison, Waukesha and Green Bay thrive economically, northern Wisconsin counties have been left behind in the state’s economic development efforts. Local economic development leaders share stories of being ineligible for economic development programs brought by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental agency created in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Northern counties are also receiving proportionally less help from the WEDC, with many local leaders saying they are ineligible or unable to meet basic requirements for certain programs or incentives.
So far the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. isn’t saying whether citations involving 1,037 workplace injuries could endanger $6.7 million in tax credits for the Wisconsin-based furniture giant.
Spectrum Brands began its successful quest for a $4 million award from the state without revealing its identity or that it was already based in Wisconsin, public records show. Its hired consultant also suggested that the backlash over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill made his unidentified client reluctant to pick Madison — where it was, in fact, already located.