Subsidy Tracker User Guide
Subsidy Tracker User Guide
Subsidy Tracker brings together subsidy recipient data from scores of state 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 at the same time. Otherwise the data are exactly as they appear in the source; we do not correct apparent errors.
Subsidy Tracker is set up to allow 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.
- 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.
- Type of Subsidy: use the dropdown menu to choose one of the standard categories we used
- 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
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. Click on a listing to see the full entry for that subsidy award.
Search results can be downloaded to a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet.
Most of the content comes from official state or local government online sources. These include a few 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 19 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 show blank fields.
We organized the data as follows:
State name: given that each recipient list is from a specific state, we simply added this field.
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.
Subsidy type: we divided the various subsidy programs into 9 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Agency: the name of the state agency involved in awarding or overseeing the program, and often the entity responsible for reporting the recipient data.
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.
Company: The name of the company as it appears in the original source. We did not standardize company names or correct errors.
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 were also deleted. Quite a few entries display zero as the subsidy value, reflecting what was in the original sources. In some cases the zero seems to indicate that the information is not available; in other cases it seems to indicate that in the given year the company received no subsidy but is listed because received an award from that program in another year. Check the original source for clarification.
City, County, Street Address and ZIP Code: data relating to the location of the subsidized facility. These, too, are presented exactly as they appear in the data source.
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.
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.
Jobs Data: 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.
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.
Last updated May 30, 2012
Learn more about subsidy practices and controversial deals in this resource covering each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.
The first national compilation of company-specific information on economic development subsidy awards from around the country. Search the database here.