One of the most important pieces to state government and all departments within the state is to make sure each department is efficient and diligent in its use of taxpayer money. With that, it is also important for each department to be as open to the general public as possible especially when it comes to economic development. A primary focus of TNECD is to ensure that stakeholders have easily accessible information on how TNECD business incentive funding is awarded. The department manages this information through the OpenECD website. It is important that TNECD continually improves the availability and accessibility of this information.
To figure out where Tennessee can improve and to see where Tennessee is in comparison to other states’ economic development agencies, the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT) analyzed transparency and economic development incentive portals for all 50 states.
In terms of transparency, Tennessee has been recognized as a leader in three areas: TNECD’s due diligence process, coordination among agencies and open data policies. In order to continue to excel in these three areas, TNECD has worked with a third-party firm to create an economic and fiscal impact model which allows CERT to forecast the economic and fiscal impacts of TNECD projects over a 10-year period. For every project which receives a grant from TNECD, CERT forecasts new job creation, new salaries, economic impact and taxable sales and purchases expected in the state. CERT also forecasts state tax revenues the projects are expected to generate over a 10-year period, net of credits and other costs of providing state services, and highlights these state revenues in comparison to discretionary incentives. This return on investment analysis allows TNECD to prepare grant commitments with greater quantitative analysis and fiscal stewardship.
TNECD has also taken steps into being more transparent for the state’s citizens. Tennessee placed into the top quartile of states for economic development transparency, according to CERT’s analysis of individual project and business incentive data made available on economic development agency websites. Two significant factors which push Tennessee into the top tier for transparency are the department’s new interactive grant database and grant dashboard available on the department’s transparency website, OpenECD.
OpenECD is the medium through which TNECD provides project and grant incentive data specific to economic and community development. Designed to be a user-friendly site, Tennessee’s stakeholders can use this portal to access public information and documents relevant to the department’s grants. OpenECD provides users access to detailed information, databases, dashboards and periodic reporting through seven different links.