Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker Used in New York Times Reportage

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Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker Used in New York Times Reportage

Washington, DC, December 2, 2012—The database created by the New York Times to accompany its new series on economic development incentives draws heavily from Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker search tool launched in 2010.

“We worked closely with the Times and are pleased to have contributed what appears to be a large majority of the company-specific information the paper used for its excellent online feature,” said Philip Mattera, Research Director of Good Jobs First and creator of Subsidy Tracker, which can be found at http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/subsidy-tracker

“Subsidy Tracker has become the best-practice standard for states to disclose their economic development spending,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. “States as politically diverse as Tennessee and Maryland have publicly acknowledged our technical assistance in launching or improving their disclosure websites. We also know that high-level officials in more than 30 states have responded to our 50-state report-card studies on transparency, job creation and enforcement.”

In the Times’ methodology page and every search display page, the main sources of company data listed are Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker Database and Investment Consulting Associates. The latter is an expensive subscription service covering fewer than 5,000 U.S. deals going back only to 2010, while Subsidy Tracker is free, has nearly 250,000 entries with some programs covered back more than a decade, and spans more than 400 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Subsidy Tracker also incorporates information from the Good Jobs New York database, which has more detailed entries on subsidies awarded in New York City.

Subsidy Tracker’s company-specific coverage also goes far beyond that of the Times’ database, which is limited to recipients of total subsidies in excess of $1 million. And whereas the Times aggregates the awards larger recipients received in each state into a single figure, Subsidy Tracker provides details on all the individual awards, including links back to official data sources and, when available, figures on the number of jobs and wage levels projected and/or created with each subsidy. When disclosed, Subsidy Tracker also provides project street addresses, enabling users to map and analyze the geographic distribution of the awards.

Much of the data in Subsidy Tracker first existed in far-flung sources and formats that were neither retrievable nor searchable. Much data had to be captured by customized software “scraping” programs.

Subsidy Tracker also contains previously unpublished data Good Jobs First obtained from state and local government agencies via open records requests. “Posting this unpublished data makes Subsidy Tracker, in effect, the original disclosure source for dozens of subsidy programs,” Mattera said. “We are continuing our effort to expand this portion of Subsidy Tracker’s inventory, especially with regard to city and county programs, which are far behind their state counterparts in terms of online availability.”

Good Jobs First is a non-profit, non-partisan partisan resource promoting accountability in economic development and smart growth for working families. It was founded in 1998 and is based in Washington, DC.

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2 Responses to “Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker Used in New York Times Reportage”

  1. Kenneth Thomas (@MiddleClassPoli) Says:

    Congrats, Phil and Greg! Note that the Times database includes subsidies as small as $30, but is not searchable below $1 million.

    • Phil Mattera Says:

      Thanks for that clarification, but I would point out that the smaller amounts probably all come from Subsidy Tracker. We sent the Times a spreadsheet with the entire Tracker database. Their independent info gathering was limited.

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