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Wisconsin Capitol

The state is seeking new leadership for its top economic development agency.

The state is seeking new leadership for its top economic development agency.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday the launch of a search for the next secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed three people to the post — Paul Jadin, Reed Hall and the current secretary, Mark Hogan.

“A 72-county approach to economic development is critical to creating middle-class jobs and growing the economy,” Evers said in a statement explaining why he decided to conduct a search.

The public-private agency, also known as WEDC, has been dogged by a series of scathing audits, media reports about questionable loans and accusations of mismanagement. The agency oversees the state’s efforts to incentivize job creation, awarding tax credits, grants, loans and bonds to businesses. It was created in 2011 after Walker and lawmakers dissolved the state Commerce Department.

Jadin, a former Green Bay mayor who Walker appointed as Commerce secretary, oversaw the transition of the department to WEDC. The agency had several missteps during its formative days, and Jadin clashed behind the scenes with Walker’s top advisers before leaving in 2012 for a job with the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

Hall, former head of the Marshfield Clinic, was named interim WEDC CEO in 2012 and a national search was conducted. But Walker appointed Hall over 120 applicants and three finalists, even though Hall did not apply for the position. Hall left in 2015 as personnel turnover and media reports of mismanagement continued to rock the agency.

When Hogan, a retired banking executive, was appointed, Democrats criticized Walker for selecting someone who had donated to his campaign and for not disclosing the selection process or candidates with the WEDC board. Under Hogan’s leadership, the agency received more positive audits while overseeing a controversial multibillion-dollar tax credit deal with Foxconn Technology Group, the largest with a foreign company in U.S. history.

WEDC remains the state’s main liaison with Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer building a plant in Racine County that could receive more than $4 billion in state and local taxpayer subsidies if it invests $10 billion and creates 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Walker changed state law during last December’s lame-duck legislative session, preventing Evers from appointing someone to head WEDC until Sept. 1.

That allowed Hogan to keep his job longer than Walker’s other secretaries. He announced his impending departure last month.

Those interested in applying can visit go.madison.com/wedc-apply.

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Kelly Meyerhofer covers higher education for the Wisconsin State Journal. She can be reached at 608-252-6106 or kmeyerhofer@madison.com.