Incoming Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Melissa Hughes will make the same amount as her predecessor, or just under $200,000 a year.
WEDC spokesman David Callender said the WEDC board approved Hughes’ $195,000 salary at its Wednesday meeting. Hughes’ salary is the same as former CEO Mark Hogan, who resigned earlier this month after four years of service.
Hughes most recently served as La Farge-based cooperative Organic Valley’s chief mission officer and general counsel since 2003. She was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this month to lead WEDC. She was selected from 28 applicants narrowed down to six finalists and is the first woman to be appointed to serve as WEDC’s secretary.
Hughes’ first day is planned for Oct. 1.
The position’s salary has increased since WEDC was formed in 2011 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
WEDC’s first CEO, Paul Jadin, made about $120,000 a year. Jadin left the job amid various reports of problems at the agency and behind-the-scenes disagreements with Walker, who at the time served as chairman of the agency’s board of directors. Jadin became head of Dane County’s regional economic development agency in late 2012.
Jadin’s replacement, Marshfield Clinic’s retired executive director Reed Hall, who had been serving as interim CEO until Walker hired him, made $185,000 a year. Hall, who did not formally apply for the job, was selected over three finalists and 120 applicants.
Hall left the agency in 2015 amid reports of mishandled loans and discontent among employees.
Under Hogan, WEDC negotiated a record-breaking tax credit deal with Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, to bring a manufacturing campus to Racine County. The company could receive more than $4 billion in state and local tax subsidies if it invests $10 billion and creates 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin over 15 years.
Hughes will take the helm of a public-private agency that dispenses more than $3.1 billion a year in tax credits, grants, loans and bonds. The agency also comes with a history of negative audits, media reports about questionable loans and accusations of mismanagement.
During a Tuesday luncheon, Evers said he hopes to see WEDC put more focus on the state’s 72 counties, rather than just southeastern Wisconsin, under Hughes’ leadership.
“I think the message there is we are supportive of the present work around advanced manufacturing and making sure we have good manufacturing facilities and employers and employees in the state,” Evers said Tuesday.
“We also have to make sure we value and ramp up our support for our startups,” Evers added. “Those things, frankly, are going to be the future of Wisconsin … I expect Missy will be taking the lead on that.”