Gov. Tony Evers has named a new CEO to lead the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the quasi-private state jobs agency he once promised as a candidate to defund.
Evers announced Thursday that Missy Hughes will lead WEDC beginning on Oct. 1, 2019. Hughes has served as chief mission officer and general counsel for Organic Valley/CROPP cooperative since 2003.
She'll replace current WEDC CEO Mark Hogan, who was tapped to lead the agency by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2015.
Evers was blocked from making a new pick to head WEDC until Sept. 1 by a law Republicans passed in last December's lame-duck session of the Legislature.
In a written statement, the governor said Hughes' experience helping small businesses and farms coupled with her experience navigating complex regulations would help her grow the state's economy.
"I look forward to working with Ms. Hughes as we connect the dots on economic development in a way that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation while supporting our farm economy, our manufacturers, and the Main Street businesses, start-ups, and large-scale companies that help our communities grow," Evers said.
Walker called for the creation of WEDC as one of his first acts in office in 2011. It replaced Wisconsin's Department of Commerce, a state agency with less autonomy than WEDC.
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WEDC has been the subject of several critical state audits, many of which have criticized the agency for its failure to adequately report how many jobs companies have created with the help of state grants.
Under Hogan's direction, WEDC also helped negotiate Wisconsin's multi-billion dollar deal with Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn. That agreement pledged to pay Foxconn nearly $3 billion directly in state money if it made capital investments in southeast Wisconsin and hit a variety of hiring benchmarks.
During his Democratic primary campaign, Evers was especially critical of WEDC, saying he planned to defund the agency if elected. He later talked about replacing WEDC with a state agency.
While the governor has since backed down from those ideas, his ability to make substantial changes to WEDC has been limited until now.
Hughes, who was not made available for an interview Thursday, issued her own written statement after her appointment.
"Having worked in a high growth business for many years, with the goal of helping farmers stay on their farms now and for the coming generations, I am excited to bring my experience to the Evers administration, and I look forward to helping all of Wisconsin thrive," Hughes said.