Texas job creation program results are difficult to measure

Nov 18, 2014

Throughout the past decade, the national and global economies have been bombarded with tough times. In response, everyone from the municipal/city level all the way up to country heads have been working on solutions that can help to create jobs and ease unemployment. As a state, one way that Texas responded to this crisis, way back in 2003, was to fund the creation of the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF).

The fund is an allocation of government money which can be distributed to businesses and enterprises deemed deserving within the state. The idea behind the TEF (as it’s known) was twofold: First, Texas lawmakers wanted to make sure that businesses within the state didn’t fail and were able to actually keep growing during tough economic times. The TEF was also thought to be a way to bring in entrepreneurial talent from other states and tap into bright minds across the country.

The trouble, it’s turned out, with the TEF, is that monitoring the exact results of the awarded funds is proving quite difficult. Just last year, Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, asked that the program be audited so that lawmakers could gain a better understanding of how those funds were being used. Apparently born out of both sides of the political ticket admitting they had little idea exactly what was going on with their money, the report (unfortunately) provided little in the way of answers.

The report concluded that there was really no way, given the present system, to get an accurate idea of how many jobs had been created by the program. Even more troubling, was the fact that it appeared there was little tracking done to even monitor where the money went after it was decided that it would be awarded to a certain company.

The report goes on to outline potential legal problems for any lawmakers looking for accountability. Paperwork was said to be somewhat ambiguous in nature, which could in turn make agreements made about the fund’s programs difficult to enforce. Variables, like the criteria over the types and numbers of jobs created, were left unspecified; this kind of ambiguity leaves it no mystery that monitoring outcomes became so difficult.

The road to evil is paved with good intentions, they say, and it would seem Texas lawmakers may have fallen victim to that mantra. That said, it is likely that the program has done good, however tough to measure that good might be. Even if every target wasn’t hit perfectly, there’s a good chance that many of those receiving funding did honor their agreements, which would mean some degree of job growth. However minor or intangible, there are probably more than a handful of Texas families out there whose lives benefited drastically from the TEF, at least indirectly in the form of a created job. This sentiment is borne out in the employment data for the state of Texas which shows that it has created almost one million new jobs since 2007.

Right now, this good idea has turned into a black eye for the Texas government, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged or turned around. In the future, a look to better management and a clearer stating of terms could help to polish this potential diamond in the rough.