WEDC tries to rebuild credibility - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

WEDC tries to rebuild credibility

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has announced the changes they've taken to assure accountability after an audit earlier this year found the agency was violating state law.

WEDC's CEO Reed Hall says the most notable changes are to staff. The board has added a new chief financial officer and other banking experts to WEDC staff and developed a new computer system to track data.

"We have more board involvement and the things that we're doing with our staffing and our compliance program, including moving internal audit and compliance into our legal department here," says Hall. "I think the new changes that we made will change that and make us a better organization."

Hall says accountability is the focus along with re-establishing credibility.

In the first two years of operations, five audits found the agency failed to keep track of the money it loaned out and its job creation efforts. Since then, the Senate approved a bill requiring term limits for WEDC's board members and annual reviews by state auditors.

Hall says it will likely take the companies WEDC contracts with some time to adapt to the changes. Contracts and loans will require new reporting requirements.

WEDC board member Paul Radspinner says he's looking forward to the board having more control over decisions on top executives.

"Too many mistakes were made and I think it looked like incompetence to people. I think if you see what's going on now you'll see a very lean agency that's working hard for the taxpayers," Radspinner says. "The ability to control upper management as far as hiring and firing is really a critical component there."

That decision will be made by lawmakers. Democratic Rep. Peter Barca, also a WEDC board member, says he and a Republican lawmaker have put forward a bill to give the WEDC board more control. Barca hopes it will get support throughout the Legislature.

Barca says the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, but WEDC and its board need to be more aggressive.

"I'm glad we're starting to make some progress, but of course what really counts is once these reforms are in place that they're actually utilized," says Barca. "The bottom line is whether or not we're making progress in creating jobs."

Barca wants to broaden the skill and knowledge base of the board, adding more experts and financial experience.

Visit WEDC's website for a longer list of the agency's accountability measures.

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