21 Aug 2014

The 10 "Musts" of Economic Development Data

Alissa Sklar is the director of marketing for GIS Planning. She has extensive experience as a consultant, writer and educator in the fields of technology and communications. Dr. Sklar has a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts of Amherst, and has as worked closely with B2Bs and economic development agencies to assess, develop and implement social media strategies for business development.

Open for business economic developmentAs an economic development organization, you are unquestionably committed to sharing critical data about your community so site selectors and businesses can make investment decisions. After all, you are looking to attract relocating or expanding businesses based and create new jobs, and you probably recognize that they will be looking for online information about your location before they bother picking up a telephone to make contact.

However, it's also pretty clear from all of my research online that some ED pros aren't entirely aware of the data they need, or how to ensure it's presented in useful ways for investment prospects. I've seen economic development websites that offer almost nothing in the way of useful data about work force, demographics or local industries. I've found data on other websites that was so outdated as to be practically useless (site selectors are not interested in historical research). I've also come across links that sent me away from the ED website to static reports that offer little of interest or use. Correcting these errors is surprisingly simple to do, once you are aware they are there. 

Consider that locations that don't offer data effectively are losing leads without even knowing it. Most site selectors and businesses recognize that there are probably a number of excellent locations they can choose; since more than 97% of them are doing research online, it is highly likely that they will pass on economic development organizations that don't offer access to key data in favor of those that do.

If you want to ensure your community is on their shortlist, you absolutely must be proactive and competitive.

Here's one example that economic development professionals don't often consider: granularity. This means data needs to be broken down into small or large units according to the users’ needs. Businesses may locate in a city, but they operate in every thing from regional economic labor areas to neighborhood economies. Your location needs to offer website users data from the hyper-local to the regional. 

You can see how granular data might be important with the following example. A grocery store interested in a specific location may want detailed consumer spending information within a short radius or drive time from their proposed facility (knowing that most people tend to do their grocery shopping within their immediate neighborhoods, but will also want regional information about possible suppliers, other grocery stores and large food purveyors in the region to determine if the market is right for them. 

So logical. And yet many ED organization don't offer a full spectrum of data units. And it's just one of 10 ways data needs to be presented to be as effective as possible when it comes to investment attraction. 

To teach more about this topic and the many practical tips and examples to ensure your location has the best shot at making those important shortlists we taught a webinar on the subject. If you missed our webinar about the 10 musts of economic development data, don't despair. You can view a link to the recording here, or see the slides here on SlideShare.


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