Audit reveals WI agencies didn't track economic development - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Audit reveals Wisconsin agencies didn't track economic development

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- A new audit reveals that state agencies in charge of economic development programs have not kept a close eye on all the results. More than 100 programs received money from the state and then handed it down to businesses in the form of tax credits, hoping the extra cash would help grow jobs. Whether or not that happened is a question that remains somewhat unanswered.

Between 2009 and 2011, Wisconsin gave more than $226 million in tax credits to state programs, hoping to spur economic development.  Now, a new audit shows that state agencies in charge of administering those programs did not follow up with almost 20% of businesses to see if jobs were added.  We caught up with state Senator Kathleen Vinehout to get her reaction.

"What this audit shows is that we're woefully neglectful," Vinehout says. "The state of Wisconsin has not documented the creation of jobs like it needs to. There are documents that are missing, there are reports that should've been filed, there are agencies that should've done follow-up and a lot of this didn't happen and because of that, we don't know how much of that money that's being spent to create jobs actually did end up creating jobs."

Applied Data Consultants is a local company that has received money from the state over the past few years, about $100,000 in total.  The company says the state has been checking up with them to see how that money has been spent.

"There are phone calls back and forth," explains Applied Data Consultants President Jim Ward.  "There are always questions and clarifications and them checking up.  'How's it going?  Do you have any questions for us?'"

Applied Data Consultants is a full-service geographic systems firm based out of Wheaton.  In 2008, the company says it asked for money from the state after it landed a huge contract and was hoping to hire 20 new workers. The company received a tax credit and in the end was able to bring on six new hires.

"On an annual basis, there's quite an extensive questionnaire and a lot of paperwork that goes into diving into your financial's, diving into your employment records to see who was hired," says Ward.

But Senator Vinehout says more needs to be done to get a clearer picture on every business that received a helping hand, not just some of them.

"We have invested over $200 million in these programs to create jobs and the people of this state want to know that that money is well spent and this audit shows that we don't know the answer to that question," Vinehout says.

Air Motion Systems in River Falls is another company that received help from the state.

Through $250,000 in tax credits, the company says it was able to create about 70 jobs over a three-year period. Air Motion Systems says the state regularly checked up on its progress to see where that money was being spent.

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