Online map shows economic development projects

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Jim Leute
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

JANESVILLE—Investments made by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. in Rock County have resulted in 278 new jobs and the retention of nearly 1,200 others in the last two years.

That's according to a new, interactive map online developed in partnership with the UW-Whitewater and UW-Madison.

The map shows the individual investments WEDC has made since July 2011. Users can examine key performance indicators such as award amounts and projected jobs.

The map also allows users to view summaries for regions such as Senate and Assembly districts, and the tool generates maps and summary reports.

“The impact map is a new tool for the public to see where WEDC's economic and community development projects are and get detailed information on individual awards and the expected outcomes,” said Reed Hall, secretary and chief executive officer of the economic development organization.

In Rock County, the map lists 15 projects and awards made in the form of bonding authority, tax credits or grants.

Mark Maley, a spokesman for the corporation, said the contracts typically run for a period of years. The same contract can require job benchmarks be met for a certain number of years, while capital investments may be required in a different number of years.

Companies are required to submit their job and investment numbers annually, he said.

The 15 Rock County projects total nearly $159 million, and the state's commitments are nearly $42 million.

For example, the map shows a $4.1 million project for ANGI Energy Systems, which last year moved from Milton to the former ThyssenKrupp plant on Delavan Drive in Janesville.

The state committed $500,000 to the project under the condition that ANGI meet it capital investment goals, retain 100 jobs and create 25 new ones.

So far, the company has retained those 100 jobs and created 49.

To date, ANGI is eligible to claim tax credits of $266,677 of its $500,000 allotment from the state, according to the map.

In 2011, W.W. Grainger in Janesville received a commitment for $500,000 in tax credits based on capital investment and job retention and creation. The company planned to spend $2.8 million in Janesville.

To date, Grainger is eligible for just $50,000 in tax credits. The map indicates the company has retained 753 of the 761 jobs it promised but created none of the 130 jobs it said it would create.

A third Rock County example is County Materials, which planned a $14 million project between Janesville and Beloit.

To date, the company has spent about $12.6 million on the project and is eligible for tax credits of nearly $700,000. The state committed $750,000 in tax credits for the project.

The map indicates County Materials planned to retain 823 jobs and create 43 new ones. So far, the map indicates County Materials has done neither, even though the company is in operation and people are working at the Rock County facility.

Maley said the agreement was signed in April, and the tax credits are primarily tied to the company's capital investment. The state's spreadsheet has not been updated with current employment levels.

The agreement with County Materials is fairly unique, he said, because the number of jobs retained is tied to the company's employment levels at several other Wisconsin facilities.

“We're interested in creating and retaining jobs in Wisconsin, and in this case we wouldn't want to give them the tax credits for creating 43 jobs (in Rock County) and then have them move 200 jobs from other locations out of state,” Maley said.

In total, the map shows that the Rock County projects have retained 1,184 of the planned 2,232 jobs. They have created 278 of 448 jobs planned.

So far, the projects are eligible for tax credits of nearly $2.5 million, about 6 percent of the $41.7 million the state will allow.

The impact map is a project in partnership with Pangea Studios at UW-Whitewater and the State Cartographer's Office and Cartography Lab at UW-Madison.

UW-Whitewater students with Pangea provided map coding and database development, while UW-Madison students with the state Cartographer's Office and Cartography Lab provided input on the design and functionality of the map.

Created in 2011 by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature, the WEDC leads economic development efforts by focusing on business and industry development, economic and community development, entrepreneurship and innovation and international business development.


In Cole Isenberger's expected line of work, learning new languages is a big deal.

That's what the UW-Whitewater student from Orfordville had to do this summer as he teamed up with a handful of other students to provide map coding and database development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.'s online map that shows the organization's investments across the state.

Isenberger and the other students work for the university's Pangea Studios, a nonprofit center that provides mapping services.

“This was a (computer) language that I had never used, and most of us hadn't,” said Isenberger who is majoring in information technology and business application development. “There was a lot of benefit for me in learning it and working on this project.”

Eric Compas is director of Pangea and an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Geology at UW-Whitewater.

He said the project was one of the biggest the center and its students have undertaken.

“We all stretched our skills,” he said.

UW-Whitewater worked in collaboration with the State Cartographer's Office and the Cartography Lab at UW-Madison on the design for the map. Then three UW-Whitewater students and one recent graduate worked all summer to make it a reality.

“It was a very ambitious project, primarily because it was a professional level product and it was done on a fairly tight timeline,” Compas said. “It involved lots of different web technologies on our end.

“This project gave our students an opportunity to expand their skill sets, working with a client like WEDC and professionals on a real-world project that goes well beyond their traditional classroom experiences.”

Four to six students typically work each semester at Pangea, where other projects include public works mapping in Walworth County and figuring out the most efficient routes for trash trucks in Milwaukee.

Compas said Pangea's work not only helps students develop skills for their careers but also fosters economic growth.

The WEDC project, he said, is an example of the university contributing to economic development in Wisconsin.

Reed Hall, secretary and chief executive officer of the economic development organization, agreed.

“WEDC's partnership with Pangea Studios and the State Cartographer's Office and Cartography Lab allows us to tap into a talented pool of Wisconsin students and leverage state resources in an effective and affordable manner,” he said. “Their specialization in developing visualization tools of qualitative economic development data helps WEDC demonstrate the impact of our investments to the public.”

Isenberger said the project allowed him to learn the new computer language and acquire skills that he likely wouldn't have gained in the classroom.

“When you go for a job and look at the list of requirements, many of them have languages that we haven't learned,” he said. “I'm pretty big into learning as many languages as I can, and from that perspective this project was very beneficial.”

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