Archive for the ‘Subsidy Tracker’ Category

Arkansas Will Claw Back Hewlett-Packard Subsidies

July 11, 2013

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Photo and the caption by “Governor Beebe today [Mar 3, 2010] helped dedicate the HP Conway facility. HP expects to employ 1,200 Arkansans at the new facility.”

After laying off 500 workers from its publicly subsidized facility in Conway, Hewlett-Packard will have to repay some of the money it has received from the state, Arkansas economic development officials announced.

When HP opened its customer support facility in 2010 (the deal was announced in 2008), it was supposed to be a game changer for the economic development reputation of Arkansas. The state was willing to pay the price and offered HP state and local subsidies.

Arkansas never disclosed the full value of the subsidy package, but it was reported that the company received at least $17 million upfront: $10 million from the state’s Quick-Action Closing Fund and $7.2 million from city of Conway, including $5 million the city spent to upgrade the industrial park where the facility was later located.

HP was also eligible for various performance-based tax refunds, rebates and credits. Although Arkansas does not publish data on its subsidies, the state made some of that information available to Good Jobs First. The data, now available through Subsidy Tracker, includes: three awards from the Existing Workforce Training Program for a total of $62,882; an income tax credit from the Advantage Arkansas program worth $53,418; and a refund of $21,801 from the Tax Back Sales and Use Tax Refunds program.

After the layoff, the state officials announced that HP no longer met the minimum requirement of 1,000 jobs at the Conway faculty and that the state would work with the company to determine how much money needs to be returned. It is unclear, however, whether the clawback will include only upfront grants or also already claimed tax and workforce training subsidies, and whether HP will have to return any local funds.

Although HP’s layoffs are not good news, it is encouraging that Arkansas is willing to implement the clawback provisions it wisely included in its deal with the company.

Giant Job Subsidy Packages Grow More Common and Costly

June 19, 2013

moneybagsWashington, DC, June 19, 2013 — In recent years, state and local governments have been awarding giant economic development subsidy packages to corporations more frequently than ever before. The packages frequently reach nine and even ten figures, and the cost per job averages $456,000 and often exceeds $1 million.

These are the findings of Megadeals, a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit resource center based in Washington, DC.

“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.”

In a painstaking review using hundreds of sources, Good Jobs First identifies 240 “megadeals,” or subsidy awards with a total state and local cost of $75 million or more each. The cumulative cost of these deals is more than $64 billion.

The number of such deals and their costs are rising: since 2008, the average frequency of megadeals per year has doubled (compared to the previous decade) and their aggregate annual cost has roughly doubled as well, averaging around $5 billion. For those deals where job projections were available, the average cost per job is $456,000.

Michigan has the most megadeals, with 29, followed by New York with 23; Ohio and Texas with a dozen each; Louisiana and Tennessee with 11 each; and Alabama, Kentucky and New Jersey with 10 each. Forty states plus the District of Columbia have done at least one megadeal.

In dollar terms, New York is spending the most, with megadeals totaling $11.4 billion. Next is Michigan with $7.1 billion, followed by five states in the $3 billion range: Oregon, New Mexico, Washington, Louisiana, and Texas.

“Despite their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new-job creation,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area.”

Megadeals have been awarded to many of the largest and best known companies based in the United States as well as foreign ones doing business here, including: every large domestic automaker and all of the foreign auto producers with appreciable U.S. sales; oil giants such as Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell; aerospace leaders Boeing and Airbus; banks such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; media companies such as Walt Disney and its subsidiary ESPN; retailers such as Sears and Cabela’s; old-line industrials such as General Electric and Dow Chemical; and tech leaders such as, Apple, Intel and Samsung.

The most expensive single listing is a 30-year discounted-electricity deal worth an estimated $5.6 billion given to aluminum producer Alcoa by the New York Power Authority. Taking all of a company’s megadeals into account, Alcoa is at the top with its single $5.6 billion deal, followed by Boeing (four deals worth a total of $4.4 billion), Intel (six deals worth $3.6 billion), General Motors (11 deals worth $2.7 billion), Ford Motor (9 deals worth $2.1 billion), Nike (1 deal worth $2 billion) and Nissan (four deals worth $1.8 billion).

Fifty-six megadeals went to corporations with parents based outside the United States and seven more went to joint ventures of domestic and foreign companies.

The megadeals list is a new enhancement of Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker database, the first online compilation of company-specific data on economic development deals from around the country.

Until now, the content of Subsidy Tracker has consisted exclusively of official disclosure data provided by state and local governments. However, many large deals pre-dated disclosure and many recent ones are missing from the official lists because of gaps in state and local transparency practices. To overcome those constraints, Good Jobs First went back and assembled information on large deals using a wider variety of sources. The resulting list of megadeals has been incorporated into Subsidy Tracker.

In a policy sidebar, the study points out that the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has been long-negligent in failing to promulgate regulations for how state and local governments should account for tax-based economic development expenditures.  If GASB were to finally promulgate such regulations—covering both programs and deals—taxpayers would have standardized, comparable statistics about megadeals and could better weigh their costs and benefits.

A Tale of Two States (and Subsidy Transparency)

March 15, 2013

Florida and Mississippi may come close to sharing a border, but they are worlds apart in their current approach to the disclosure of economic development subsidies.

Florida has just launched an Economic Development Incentives Portal that makes it easy to discover which companies have benefited from programs such as the Quick Action Closing Fund, the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund and the High Impact Performance Incentive.

Online subsidy disclosure is not completely new to Florida. An agency called the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development used to post a PDF list of recipients for various programs. After Rick Scott took office as governor in 2011, that agency was put under the auspices of the new Department of Economic Opportunity, and the old disclosure site disappeared. DEO promised to restore transparency and has now made good on that promise.

The new portal, produced by DEO in partnership with Enterprise Florida, covers a dozen programs with a total of about 1,250 entries, including “every non-confidential incentive project with an executed contract since 1996 that received or is on schedule to receive payments from the state of Florida.” DEO promises to add listings for confidential projects as their exemptions from disclosure requirements expire.

Searches can be targeted according to business name, county or date range. The results show company name, industry, subsidy value, county, approval date and project status. They also include both committed and actual numbers for jobs and investment, though in many cases the performance figures are listed as not available. The portal also includes projects that are inactive or have been terminated.

Florida’s portal is an important advance for subsidy transparency. The site would be even more useful if it included street addresses for the subsidized facilities (to facilitate mapping) and allowed downloading of search results in spreadsheet form.  At my request, DEO sent such a spreadsheet for the entire database, which I used both to prepare this piece and to upload the information to Subsidy Tracker.

Mississippi, on the other hand, is resisting online disclosure. The state legislature recently killed a bill that would have required the Mississippi Development Authority to publish an annual report on the tax credits, loans and grants it provides to companies in the name of economic development.

It turns out that the agency produced such a report for internal purposes but did not make it public. A group called the Bigger Pie Forum learned about the document—the 2012 Mississippi Incentives Report—and filed a successful freedom of information act request. Bigger Pie was only able to get a hard copy, but it scanned the report and has posted it online here. The info in that report has also been added to Subsidy Tracker.

Despite the reluctance of state legislators, online subsidy disclosure has come to Mississippi. Perhaps the Magnolia State will realize the futility of resisting official transparency and join the Sunshine State, among about 45 others, in making subsidy information directly available to the public via the web.

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

December 2, 2012

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

“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.


Tracker Surpasses 400 Programs As It Captures More Local Data

November 19, 2012

The Good Jobs First Subsidy Tracker database reached a new milestone as the number of programs from which it draws information passed 400. Tracker now has more than 247,000 entries from 409 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Most of the latest additions are the results of our effort to obtain data from cities and counties. Given that localities are far behind states in putting subsidy information online, most of what we gather is unpublished information obtained via informal and formal open records requests to economic development agencies.

The localities for which we have just added such information are: Albuquerque, Baltimore; Kansas City, Missouri; Columbus, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Janesville, Wisconsin; and Bloomington, Indiana.

We also got unpublished data on Alaska’s Oil and Gas Production Tax Credits and Louisiana’s Gulf Opportunity Zone bond program. The latter is technically a federal program, but the bond allocations are made by the Louisiana State Bond Commission.

Here’s a complete list of the recent additions:

  • Alaska: Oil and Gas Production Tax Credits (2009-2010)
  • Indiana: Bloomington Sustainable Partnership Grant (2009-2011)
  • Indiana: Bloomington Urban Enterprise Zone Incentives (2009-2011)
  • Louisiana: Gulf Opportunity Zone Program (2006-2011)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Development Corporation Brownfields Program (2012)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Development Corporation Business Assistance Programs (2005-2010)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Development Corporation Loan Program (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Development Corporation PILOTs (2003-Oct 2012)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Development Corporation TIF Projects (2003-Oct 2012)
  • Maryland: Baltimore Enterprise Zones (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Program (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids Industrial Facilities Property Tax Exemptions (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids New Personal Property Exemptions (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act Exemptions (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids Renaissance Zone Extensions (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Michigan: Grand Rapids Tool & Die Renaissance Zones (2005-Oct 2012)
  • Missouri: Kansas City Enhanced Enterprise Zone Local Property Tax Abatement (2009-Aug 2012)
  • Missouri: Kansas City LCRA Property Tax Abatement (2009-Aug 2012)
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque Industrial Revenue Bonds (2008-Aug 2012)
  • Ohio: Columbus Downtown Office Incentive (2009-2011)
  • Ohio: Columbus Enterprise Zone (2009-2011)
  • Ohio: Columbus Jobs Growth Incentive (2009-2011)
  • Wisconsin: Janesville Development Opportunity Zone Tax Credits (2009-Oct 2012)
  • Wisconsin: Janesville TIF Forgivable Loans (2009-Oct 2012)

Massachusetts Joins States with Tax Credit Transparency

June 5, 2012

Congratulations, Massachusetts!  As of this week, the Commonwealth has officially joined the ranks of states that disclose the recipients of economic development subsidies. Transparency legislation enacted in 2010 required the state Department of Revenue to begin posting this year the names of recipients of certain transferable or refundable tax credits, along with the value of those credits. Included on this list are the Film Tax Credit, the Economic Development Incentive Program, and refundable research credits aimed at the biotechnology and life science industries. The data, which include a total of 736 individual entries, can be viewed here.

This was all made possible through the efforts of groups such as MassPIRG, Common Cause Massachusetts, and One Massachusetts that spearheaded the campaign for the legislation.

Having long anticipated this advance in transparency, we at Good Jobs First wasted no time adding the new Massachusetts info to our Subsidy Tracker, which now contains more than 154,000 listings from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Subsidy Tracker Starts to Take On Localities

May 30, 2012

Subsidy Tracker, the Good Jobs First database on economic development subsidy awards, has begun its expansion from state programs to local ones. To kick things off, we have added more than 20,000 listings from New York City, Chicago and Miami.

The bulk of these are entries from NYC-specific programs that had been collected by our affiliate Good Jobs New York for its Database of Deals. Each item displays basic information while also providing a link to the GJNY website for additional details. We also have data on Chicago’s tax increment financing program going back to the late 1980s as well as info for Miami-Dade County’s Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund. We haven’t forgotten about state programs. Among the new entries are training reimbursement subsidies in Florida, Iowa and Louisiana.

Subsidy Tracker now contains more than 153,000 entries from 335 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Here is a complete list of the latest additions:

  • Florida: Incumbent Worker Training (FY2010 to Apr 2012)
  • Florida: Miami-Dade County: Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund (2003 to May 2012)
  • Florida: Quick Response Training (FY2010 to Apr 2012)
  • Illinois: Chicago: Tax Increment Financing (1987 to May 2012)
  • Iowa: Industrial New Jobs Training (260E) (2002 to May 2012)
  • Louisiana: LED FastStart (2009 to 2011)
  • Nevada: Personal Property Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • Nevada: Real Property Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • New York: NYC: Commercial Growth Project (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Industrial Incentive Program (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Job Creation and Retention Program (2002 to 2009)
  • New York: NYC: Manufacturing Facilities Bond (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Small Firm Attraction and Retention Grant (2002 to 2008)
  • New York: NYC: Small Industry Incentive (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: World Trade Center Business Recovery Grant (2001 to 2004)
  • Texas: Enterprise Zones (2003 to 2010)

Subsidy Tracker Now Covers All 50 States

April 25, 2012

No part of the country is safe from the scrutiny of Subsidy Tracker, the Good Jobs First database of economic development subsidy awards. With the addition of data from Nevada and Mississippi, all 50 states and the District of Columbia are now represented in the search engine.

Nevada and Mississippi are present thanks to successful open records requests and the discovery of an obscure report. For Mississippi we have unpublished data from the state’s Workforce Education training program, which reimburses training costs for companies such as Nissan, Tyson’s Food and private prison operators CCA and GEO Group. For Nevada we have unpublished data on the Train Employees Now program as well as data on business tax abatements and sales and use tax abatements that were listed in 2009 report by the state legislature’s fiscal analysis division that just came to our attention.

Our latest batch of additions also includes unpublished data from programs in Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah (see below). Subsidy Tracker now contains company-specific data on more than 127,000 subsidy awards from 319 programs throughout the country. The depth of coverage still varies considerably from state to state, so we are continuing our push to obtain unpublished data on more and more subsidy programs.

New programs added

  • Connecticut: Digital Media and Film Tax Credit (FY2009-FY2011)
  • Mississippi: Workforce Education training program (FY2009-FY2011)
  • Nevada: Business Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • Nevada: Sales and Use Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • Nevada: Train Employees Now (Apr2011-Mar2012)
  • New York: Job Development Authority Direct Loan Program (2006-Mar2012)
  • New York: Jobs Now (2006-Mar2012)
  • New York: Manufacturing Assistance Program (2006-Mar2012)
  • Oklahoma: Training for Industry (FY2008-FY2011)
  • Texas: Skills Development Fund (FY2009-FY2011)
  • Utah: Custom Fit Training Program (FY2009-FY2011)

New years added:

  • Hawaii: Enterprise Zones (now 2007 and 2011)
  • Virginia: Special Performance Grants (FY2009-FY2011)

Mapping Job Subsidies: Nearly 2,000 New Deals Ready for Mapping

January 31, 2012

As states increasingly bring economic development deals into the sunlight, they are increasingly also doing so in ways that allow users to map the geographic distributions of those subsidies. Of the 116,000 entries in our Subsidy Tracker database, nearly 33,000 deals in 16 states can now be mapped to an exact address, while about 55,000 deals can be mapped to the nearest city. With new data online and ready for mapping, especially unpublished data just obtained from the state of Massachusetts, we encourage our followers to take our data and make the most of it.

As those who follow Good Jobs First know, since 2000 we have issued several studies mapping the geographic distribution of company-specific economic development subsidy deals—and then analyzing them for their pro-sprawl bias.

We are proud of the methodology we pioneered in creating these studies and have freely given away our data and advice to others seeking to replicate the work. These studies were tedious: we obtained lists of subsidy deals using state Freedom of Information laws and then spent months either obtaining street addresses or cleaning up the addresses provided.

Improved state disclosure systems combined with our Subsidy Tracker tool have trimmed many of the difficulties from that process allowing citizens and journalists to analyze deals for a wide variety of issues: poverty, race, tax-base wealth, population density, whether the worksite is served by public transportation, whether jobs are being created in communities hardest hit by plant closings and mass layoffs, etc.

As more states put subsidy data online in a downloadable and mapping-friendly format, we will continue to grow Subsidy Tracker and mash up geographic data in new ways.