Subsidy Tracker User Guide
Subsidy Tracker User Guide
Subsidy Tracker brings together subsidy recipient data from more than 500 state and local government economic development programs around the country. We have put the information into a standardized set of categories to allow the user to search across many states and programs at the same time.
In February 2014 we added a major new feature to the database: the inclusion of parent company data for a substantial portion of the entries. In addition to adding this information to the individual entries, we have created summary pages for each of the 965 parents we have identified so far; those pages are described more fully below. We are calling the new version of the database Subsidy Tracker 2.0. A report summarizing what the parent-subsidiary information reveals can be found here.
The Subsidy Tracker 2.0 application was built by Rich Puchalsky of Grassroots Connection.
Tracker 2.0 builds on a feature called MEGADEALS we added to the database in June 2013. It consists of entries on every subsidy package worth at least $75 million we could find from the past three decades—240 in all. These entries draw not only from the official disclosure data otherwise used in Tracker but also fills gaps in that data by using a variety of other information sources. See here for a report on megadeals and a spreadsheet download of all the entries.
Subsidy Tracker data can now be accessed in three different ways. First, there is a dropdown menu from which the user can access any one of the 965 parent company summary pages that we have created through the addition of parent links in more than 25,000 individual entries.
The parent pages include the following features:
- An aggregate dollar total for all the subsidy awards linked to that company through its divisions and subsidiaries. This total may be adjusted to reflect the fact that in some cases the amounts in our Megadeal entries overlap with the amounts in our entries from specific subsidy programs.
- The total number of awards that went into that total.
- A list of the names of the units and subsidiaries that received those awards.
- A table showing the top states in which those awards were given.
- A set of links to all the individual Tracker entries associated with that company.
Next to the parent dropdown menu is a link to a page showing the 100 companies with the largest amount of total subsidy awards. Below the dropdown is a link to a page detailing the extent of the parent matching we have completed so far.
Second, there is a dropdown menu providing access to state summary pages. These pages give aggregate subsidy amounts for the state, list the 10 parent companies with the most subsidies in the state and provide a list of all the subsidy awards in the state in descending order by subsidy value. Next to the state summary dropdown is link to a page ranking the states by their subsidy totals.
The third way of accessing information is to use the search fields below the parent dropdown menu. These allow for searching according to one or more of the following data fields:
- Company: search by company name using one of five options: Starts with the letters entered; Is equal to (exactly matches) the letters entered; Contains any one of the words entered; Contains all of the words entered; or Ends with the value entered.
- Text: free-text search for words or phrases contained in any of the Tracker data fields, including the Notes.
- Subsidy Value: results can be restricted to particular value ranges by choosing one of the following: Is greater than, Is greater than or equal to, Is equal to, or Is less than or equal to. Note that amounts must be entered as plain digits with no dollar signs or commas; e.g. enter $1 million as 1000000. Note that by checking the box to the right of the subsidy value search field it is possible to limit search results to those entries with dollar amounts (some of our data sources do not provide subsidy values).
- Type of Subsidy: use the dropdown menu to choose one of the standard categories we used (including MEGADEAL).
- Year: use the dropdown to limit search results to those reported for a given year.
- State: use the dropdown to limit search results to those in a given state.If you choose a state and no other fields, the state summary page described above will appear.
By choosing a state, the following four fields are populated with state-specific lists:
- Subsidy Program (city or county programs are displayed with the name of the locality at the beginning)
- Awarding Agency: the state entity responsible for providing the subsidy to the company
- City: the city in which the subsidized facility is located (if available)
- County: the county in which the subsidized facility is located (if available)
Initial search results appear on pages with a limited set of fields. A link to the recipient's parent company is included if the entry is one of those we have matched. Click on a link in the Company field to see the full entry for that subsidy award.
Search results can be downloaded to a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet. Because of its large size, the entire database cannot be downloaded. If you wish to request a full spreadsheet for non-commercial purposes, contact Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apart from the Megadeals entries, most of the content comes from official state or local government online sources. These include some sites that provide downloadable spreadsheets, but most of them are either: interactive databases that display search results on webpages; static HTML pages with lists of recipient names; static PDF documents; or other formats such as Microsoft Word documents.
For smaller lists we simply keyboarded the data into spreadsheets. For larger ones we copied the data into spreadsheets by using the “copy as table” feature of the professional version of Adobe Acrobat or by copying from HTML tables into text files which were then imported into Excel.
In some cases, state or local agencies agreed to give us spreadsheets with data considered public information but not previously posted online. We made the requests either through informal inquiries or formal freedom of information filings. In a few instances, we include data from FOIA requests made by other organizations.
States do not adhere to any standard set of data fields in their subsidy reporting. Each program’s data thus had to be rearranged and relabeled to conform to a standard set of 20 fields we chose. Rarely did a given program provide data for every one of our fields. As a result, Subsidy Tracker search results will often not display all 20 fields.
We organized the data as follows:
Company: The name of the company as it appears in the original source, with some obvious typos corrected.
Parent Company: The ultimate owner of the recipient firm, as derived from research using outside sources such as the Croctail compilation of the subsidiary lists that publicly traded companies are required to include in their 10-K filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These entries are hyperlinked to the summary page for that parent.
State: given that each recipient list is from a specific state, we simply added this field.
City, County, Street Address and ZIP Code: data relating to the location of the subsidized facility (not the headquarters of the company). These, too, are presented exactly as they appear in the data source, though some obvious typos are corrected.
NAICS: The North American Industry Classification System is the federal government’s standard system for classifying companies according to the nature of their business activity. A limited number of subsidy programs include this information in their reporting system.
Project description: A limited number of programs describe the activity of the subsidized facility. For film subsidy programs this is the name of the film or other production.
Year: The year in which a specific subsidy (or portion of a multi-year subsidy) was awarded or disbursed. When the data relate to a fiscal year, this is indicated in the Notes field below.
Subsidy value: The dollar amount specific in the source document. We indicate in the Notes whether the amount is an actual or a projected amount (the latter being common in projects in which payouts are based on company performance with regard to job creation or investment). We converted amounts showing cents to full-dollar figures. In programs with many recipients we sometimes eliminated listings involving minimal amounts. Entries with negative amounts or zero were also deleted.
Program name: we used the program name given on the data source. You can see a list of the programs included in the database by looking at the Inventory of Data Sources. Listings of city and county programs begin with the name of the locality.
Agency: the name of the state agency involved in awarding or overseeing the program, and often the entity responsible for reporting the recipient data.
Type of subsidy: we divided the various subsidy programs into 11 broad categories:
- tax credit/rebate – these include corporate income tax credits, sales tax exemptions and other programs in which a company’s tax obligation is reduced or the firm is rebated taxes previously paid.
- property tax abatement – most taxes on real property and business personal property are paid at the local level, but we include some programs in which the state allows companies to reduce their payments for the state and/or local portions of their property tax obligations, usually by reducing the valuation of property subject to the tax.
- MEGADEAL - Those entries on subsidy packages worth $75 million or more each that were compiled using not only official disclosure sources.
- grant/low-cost loan – these include a variety of programs in which corporations are awarded a specific amount of money outright or in connection with meeting job performance or other goals. Also included are a limited number of programs that are technically loans but in many cases are “forgivable,” meaning that the company may not have to pay back the money if certain goals are met.
- enterprise zone – programs tied to investment in specific geographic areas that often bundle a variety of state and/or local tax breaks.
- tax increment financing - subsidies based on the diversion of a portion of property taxes linked to an increase in assessed value brought about by redevelopment (sometimes based on sales taxes).
- training reimbursement – programs that pay for or reimburse companies for the cost of training new or existing workers.
- cost reimbursement – programs, usually involving film production, that reimburse companies for specific expenditures (other than worker training) in the state.
- infrastructure assistance – programs that cover costs such as installation of utilities or building of private roads at a company facility.
- industrial revenue bond - low-cost financing based on tax-exempt bonds.
- tax credit/rebate and grant – programs that combine tax credits/rebates with grants
- tax credit/rebate; property tax abatement – programs that combine income or sales-tax credits or rebates with property tax abatements.
Number of Jobs or Training Slots: The number of jobs to be created or retained at a subsidized facility as a result of the financial assistance. In the case of training subsidies, this is the number of training slots. The Notes indicate whether the job number is projected (i.e., what the company promises) or actual (reported after the fact).
Wage Data and Wage Data Type: Some programs include information on the quality of the jobs created or retained. This may be an hourly wage rate, an annual salary figure or an aggregate payroll figure (which can be divided by the number of jobs to get a rough salary estimate). The Wage Data field shows the dollar figure; the Wage Data Type field indicates the category.
Capital Investment: Some programs indicate the amount that the company is investing in the subsidized project. The Notes indicate whether the amount is projected or actual.
Source of Data: Where the information came from. In cases where the source is online, the web address is given.
Notes: This field clarifies issues relating to the other categories and provides additional details.
Last updated February 26, 2014
Learn more about subsidy practices and controversial deals in this resource covering each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.