The request seems logical enough. Combine the LAIC and Chamber of Commerce funding requests, and Madison taxpayers are pouring over $300,000 into economic development activities. $140K of that comes from the third-penny sales tax, a levy that was supposed to sunset when the Community Center was paid for but which has somehow remained on the books. When taxpayers are footing the bill, they're entitled to see the budget.
But what we really need are benchmarks. What is our $240K investment in the LAIC getting for us? Here's the LAIC's explanation, as summarized in the Madison Daily Leader:
Chapel said that LAIC has worked with two companies, one for about 1 1/2 years and another for about seven months, concerning Madison expansion. He added that the development corporation was also negotiating with several other businesses. Chapel described the work as "an ongoing process" and added that LAIC officials had "focused real hard" on retaining jobs already in the community [Chuck Clement, "LAIC, Chamber Officials Request Annual Funding from City," Madison Daily Leader, 2010.07.20].
Talking, negotiating, and focusing real hard are important. But shouldn't we expect some quantifiable performance? If I were getting $240K from the city, I would expect the city to demand some proof of return on investment. Along with a detailed budget, the city should demand answers to the following questions before giving the LAIC one more penny:
- How many jobs has the LAIC created? (Context for that answer: four years ago, the LAIC set a goal of creating 400 new jobs in five years. Lake County has since lost 435 jobs.)
- How many new businesses has the LAIC directly recruited (not every single business that has started, but only those businesses that the LAIC can demonstrate wouldn't be here without specific LAIC action)?
- How many affordable houses has the LAIC sold in its TIF district?