It should not take long for the new CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to get used to his job. Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday promoted the interim head of the agency, Reed Hall, to take over the position full time. The decision follows a nationwide search in which Hall was not even initially a candidate for the position.
Hall took over as temporary CEO in November, after former head Paul Jadin left to head up the economic development group Thrive. Around the same time, WEDC came under fire after a state audit found the agency had lost track of over $56 million in loans to businesses that had not been repaid. The report was just one of several problems the agency has faced since it was created in 2011 to replace the State Department of Commerce.
Since stepping in to the role, Hall says he has worked to address the issues that lead to the lost loans. Those efforts include adding new staff at the agency and developing plans for a new computer system that will aid in tracking loans. Hall says staff has also been working with the Wisconsin Bankers Association to develop steps that will have the agency operate more like a bank, as it issues loans or offers tax credits to attract new employers to the state.
Hall’s appointment follows a nationwide search that identified three other finalists from the private sector. Democrats criticized the decision to drop those candidates in favor of Hall, who Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) accused of having little economic development experience.
Hall is a former director and general counsel at the Marshfield Clinic, and has also served on several boards and advisory councils for various state organizations.
Walker defended the decision, saying those who conducted the nationwide search liked the candidates they found, but all thought Hall was the best choice for the agency at this time.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:14)