Hough Receives Economic Development Award

Hamilton Consulting’s founder, Jim Hough, was honored at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s 2013 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development for his individual contributions to the field of economic development.

Jim Hough has been a fixture among the Wisconsin economic development community for nearly forty years. Simply stated, Jim and economic development are interchangeable references that are inherently linked. Aside from his long-standing WEDA connection, which included Association Management as well as Government Affairs duties, Jim has been a tireless advocate for improving Wisconsin’s business and investment climate. His attention to detail; his passion for causes that he supports; his respect for peers and relationships; his ability to bring together disparate coalitions; and last but not least, his ability to identify an issue and strategically address it with impeccable professionalism are qualities that separate Jim from others in the economic development arena.

Without a doubt, Wisconsin’s economic development community owes a deep-hearted “Thank You” to Jim’s engagement; his vision; and for this commitment to ensuring that WEDA always had a seat at the table. For example, during Governor Earl’s administration Jim was instrumental in facilitating nearly a dozen pieces of key economic development legislation. One of the more instrumental outcomes of that period was the creation of Forward Wisconsin, which served as the game changing, state-level, public/private economic development organization model: a model that has been replicated nationally, in some shape or form, since 1984.

During the initial Governor Thompson tenure, Jim was successful at inserting critical economic development policy and/or legislative recommendations into the Wisconsin Strategic Planning Council’s Report(s). With the assistance of various coalitions during the Thompson years, Jim was successful at identifying and subsequently producing topic specific directories, “white papers” and other related publications – ranging from business to workforce development – that helped support many of the aforementioned recommendations.

From those early days to modern times, Jim’s tireless passion – and his exceptional team that has transitioned into the Hamilton Consulting Group – for improving Wisconsin’s economic development toolbox can be found among all of WEDA’s past, present and future legislative and/or policy related wins. Specific examples include, but are not limited to: Brownfields, Civil Justice, Regulatory & Environmental Reforms, Single Factor Sales Tax, Tax Credits, Tax Increment Financing, Transportation & Energy Infrastructure and Workforce Development.

In addition to serving as WEDA’s Executive and Legislative Director for 20 years, Jim also performed similar duties for the Civil Trial Council of Wisconsin (later renamed the Wisconsin Defense Council) and the Wisconsin Mortgage Bankers Association. While serving in those capacities, Jim was instrumental in substantially growing not only the membership of those organizations (by as much as 2 ½ times), but also elevating their political capital too.

With respect to WEDA, Jim was masterful at developing the necessary architecture or game plan; identifying and then mobilizing the right contacts; and lastly, extremely crafty at diplomatically navigating the Capitol – otherwise known as the sausage maker across the street. Jim’s successful deployment of these techniques earned him the respect and recognition from various public and private sector groups – regardless of political affiliation.

In addition to the aforementioned policy or legislative activities, Jim was instrumental with repackaging the WEDA Annual Meeting into the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development. He was engaged in not only the planning, but also the implementation, of the statewide Economic Summits that kicked-off in YR 2000. Furthermore, Jim helped plant the seed (figuratively and literally) for the idea of creating a non-profit, educational corporation to perform contracted economic development services and research – known today as the Wisconsin Economic Development Institute (WEDI).

During Jim’s career, he was also instrumental with bringing together various trade associations to support WEDA’s interests. Members of these coalitions included, but were not limited to: AAA, Alliance of Cities/League of Municipalities; WI Builders, Bankers and Realtors; NFIB, TDA, WMC, and Wisconsin State Agencies ranging from Commerce to WisDOT.

Jim’s entire working career has been surrounded by varying degrees of adversity, which is to be expected in the government affairs and legal professions. In addition to working for several statewide trade associations, Jim previously worked for the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Wisconsin Legislative Council and practiced law. He also served as the Executive Director for the State Bar of Wisconsin and the State Judicial Council, respectively.

In doing so, Jim has approached each situation with professionalism and the acknowledgement that individuals, while agreeing to disagree, can and should move forward. WEDA has been a direct benefactor of Jim’s adversity handling abilities.

In 1980, Jim was retained by WEDA to perform government affairs duties. A year later, WEDA approached Jim with an offer to serve as the organization’s Association Management. This double-duty relationship remained until YR 2000, when these contracted services were split into two separate offerings. Fortunately for WEDA, Jim retained the Government Affairs contract. Although Jim is now enjoying the fruits of his retirement, he remains a valued member of WEDA’s Government Affairs team and contributes when/where appropriate. In short, Jim’s engagement has elevated WEDA to a much visible and important profile within Wisconsin’s public policy arena.