Measuring economic development success

The WEDC is sometimes referred to in media reports as the state’s “job creation agency.” While the public-private entity certainly plays a role in fostering the necessary conditions for healthy job growth in Wisconsin, WEDC does not “create jobs” on its own—indeed, no single government agency has this power over the private sector. Rather, market demand creates jobs, and that depends on a wide variety of factors. For this reason, WEDC is careful to align its key performance indicators with the outcomes of its specific work: businesses assisted; communities assisted; and investment leverage. What WEDC and its economic development partners do is help Wisconsin businesses take advantage of market opportunities, the result of which is greater demand for the company’s products and ultimately, increased staffing levels.

Assisting Businesses

WEDC uses a range of investment tools from state and federal programs to help businesses start up, grow and relocate operations in Wisconsin. In addition to financial assistance through grants, loans and tax credits, WEDC and its economic development partners provide technical assistance to help businesses in Wisconsin maximize their potential. This technical assistance includes general business education as well as highly specialized consulting services.

Assisting Communities

WEDC also provides financial and technical assistance to communities where new business opportunities depend upon significant infrastructure improvements, from downtown revitalization initiatives to industrial site clean-up.

Leveraging Partners

Less visible than WEDC’s direct funding to businesses is its investments in partner organizations and special projects. By funding organizations with specialized capabilities and a proven track record of success, WEDC maximizes the impact of its economic development funds. Partner investments include contracted business assistance services not provided by WEDC as well as strategic support for small business assistance operations throughout the state. Partner organizations are expected to match WEDC investments at a ratio of greater than 2:1.

Impacting Jobs

In many of WEDC’s financial assistance contracts with businesses is a job impact measurement. This data point captures the effect of WEDC’s investment on current or future jobs in the state. In some cases, companies are able to hire new employees as the result of WEDC assistance. In other cases, companies are able to retain existing employees by either strengthening their operations or maintaining their presence in the state. In both of these scenarios, WEDC and the company under contract project the number of jobs that will be either created or retained as a result of the investment. That job impact number is recorded in the contract and the award is contingent upon its attainment.

WEDC’s stated job impact goal for any given year is a sum of each of its individual programs’ job impact objectives. For fiscal year 2014, the organization’s job impact goal is 20,825.

When are Jobs Actually Counted?

Of course, it takes time—sometimes years—for the positive effects of a WEDC investment to be realized. The question, then, is when are the jobs in question actually impacted? And when do they get counted? WEDC counts jobs impacted annually according to the contracts signed that year.

So, if a company agrees to create 100 jobs over a five year period, WEDC reports those jobs as impacted in the year that the contract is signed. For fiscal year 2013, for example, WEDC’s impacted job measure was more than 37,000. That’s the anticipated number of jobs that will be impacted by investments made by WEDC and its partners in that year.

WEDC receives regular reports from companies receiving awards. These reports include job data that WEDC uses to track contract compliance and to gauge overall program effectiveness. All such financial rewards and their impact are recorded in the organization’s Annual Report on Economic Development available online. WEDC’s fiscal year 2013 report to be published in October will include status updates on all awards made by the organization as well as an interactive map which users can use to see the geographic dispersion of the agency’s investments.

For more information about WEDC’s investment strategies and impact measures, visit

(October 2013)