WEDC seeks to address financial reporting missteps
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) has been under the microscope since it replaced the Department of Commerce in July 2011, and rightfully so, as the new entity charged with transforming the state’s approach to economic development. Over that time, WEDC has successfully created a nimble, efficient, customer-focused organization – one that is better positioned to meet the needs of businesses.
WEDC recently completed an internal review of its financial documentation and reporting systems, uncovering certain shortcomings relating to record-keeping processes. These issues, along with a corrective action plan, have been shared with WEDC’s board of directors in fulfillment of our core principle of transparency.
In WEDC’s focus to drive job creation through new initiatives, the organization made some missteps, which it fully acknowledges. WEDC did not appropriately prioritize the time or the personnel needed to implement proper financial reporting processes. The lapses identified are isolated to the documentation processes within WEDC’s financial operations and have not affected the functional aspects of the organization’s programs. While serious, these problems are fixable, and they should not discredit the many successes WEDC has achieved.
With WEDC’s openness in identifying these issues and new management that has come on board, the organization is focused on implementing solutions.
WEDC has retained an independent auditing firm, Schenck, SC, to audit the books of the company with a report to the WEDC board of directors on Dec. 18. WEDC has also engaged Financial Institutions Products Corporation (FIPCO), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, to assist WEDC with an assessment of its finance and loan systems as well as an evaluation of credit risk processes.
WEDC’s genesis was broadly supported and followed 18 months of study fueled by strong interest within the state’s business community, economic development network, and legislature to refocus Wisconsin’s business development efforts.
The launch of WEDC has served Wisconsin well in many respects. The advancements made by WEDC would not have taken place if the state had waited to launch WEDC.
Today, in large part due to WEDC’s efforts, Wisconsin’s extended enterprise of economic development organizations is working together like never before to meet the needs of businesses eager to start up, grow, or locate operations in the state.
The many game-changing initiatives WEDC has advanced include: investment in the world-leading Milwaukee Water Technology Research and Business Accelerator; formation of a UW System partnership to create an office of economic development; and creation of the nation’s first financial services consortium and Wisconsin’s first minority business coalition.
The organization led three international trade missions to India, South America, and Asia in its first year and expanded Wisconsin’s international trade office network from four to seven. WEDC’s international division also successfully hosted an investor group from China, with nine projects from Wisconsin that have been identified as worthy of further negotiations.
Through unique partnerships with VETransfer in Milwaukee and the Innovation Foundation of Western Wisconsin, WEDC is providing entrepreneurs with needed seed capital to bolster start-up activity. In addition, WEDC is leading the charge to develop bipartisan support for investment capital legislation.
WEDC launched Wisconsin’s first marketing campaign devoted to promoting the state’s business climate. With a new brand, “In Wisconsin,” WEDC is telling Wisconsin’s business success stories.
WEDC’s mission of supporting economic development and job creation through bold and innovative initiatives aimed at propelling Wisconsin’s economy forward remains intact.
WEDC remains committed to continuing its support of business development and job creation. The organization is taking decisive action to make the necessary changes to demonstrate the transparency and accountability that Wisconsin’s taxpayers rightfully expect from the state’s lead economic development organization.
Reed E. Hall is interim secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.