by Tony Howser
We Want Those Stimulus Dollars but It Takes Money to Get Money!
Let’s say you are a consultant and your business is currently working on several opportunities to assist local, regional, and state economic development agencies with getting their hands on those federal stimulus dollars. Each and every one of them has been eyeing those dollars but they need to find matching funds to qualify for the grant money.
In our example, you are going to be helping out the city of Lawrence, Kansas by developing a Web application which leverages the ESRI Business Analyst Benchmark Report service and its Simplified XML (S.XML) output. With Business Analyst’s Standard Geography Levels, you have many options for the types of geographic areas to analyze and describe however; you decided to keep it very simple and work with Lawrence’s five ZIP codes.
It’s kind of like the classic chicken-or-the-egg scenario, right?! What your clients are basically faced with is a situation where, it takes money (which is in very low supply these days) to get some of that federal money. Every one of those areas has ready-to-go and long-deferred maintenance and upgrade projects with anxious local contractors, workers, and other businesses waiting in the wings. Your job is to attract private investment to get enough matching fund commitments to apply for those stimulus funds. What shall you do?
Highlight the Opportunities in Your Areas by Identifying Desirable Characteristics and Trends
Well, roll up your sleeves and market those areas! Make the strongest case you can and build investor confidence in each of them with high-quality data describing the current and future socioeconomic, purchasing, and other characteristics of their underlying populations. Quickly help the investors identify valuable opportunities in Lawrence and make sound business decisions.
ESRI Business Analyst Online Benchmark Report service and its new Simplified XML (S.XML) output format provide simple and flexible programmatic access to ESRI Business Analyst Data and spatial analysis. It can be an integral part of a system to drill down into, investigate, and compare current data and trends of interest to businesses, organizations, agencies, and investors.
Can’t We Get the Data from the Government?!
OK. Identifying and highlighting valuable investment opportunities backed up by powerful data to potential investors sounds great to me but; can’t I already get this kind of data from the government?
Yes, some “free” data are out there but; to make the strongest and most convincing arguments, you need access to some fairly specialized data which can be very costly to obtain on your own. How many local, regional, and state governments and chambers of commerce have had the funds and resources to amass such data? How recent and comprehensive is the information contained within it? Is there a sufficient variety of information to meet your current needs and your future requirements? Can the data provide a comprehensive snapshot of the current and future trends of the areas you are trying to market?
In that case, it sounds like the data from the U.S. Census meet a lot of these requirements, right?
Data from the U.S. Census is extremely valuable and can be very useful however; the U.S. Census is only taken every 10 years and then takes several years to completely process. Do you have the time to wait for the next federal snapshot of our society or are you able to use the older data from the 2000 Census? Additionally, a lot of consumer expenditure information and other data of interest to businesses, organizations, and agencies are not captured by the Census. ESRI Business Analyst data is obtained, compiled, and produced from many different sources. The most successful organizations leverage the most current data and data from a variety of sources in order to make well-informed decisions.
Well, how about those regular federal economic reports? We already paid for them through our tax dollars. Can’t we use them?
Think back to your original objective here: You basically want to simply and comprehensively describe and market areas to potential investors in order to attract matching funds which can be included in federal stimulus grant applications. What kind of geographic resolution do the data in those federal reports provide? You are helping the city of Lawrence, Kansas describe characteristics and opportunities in their five ZIP codes. Regular federal economic reports are invaluable tools to economists, academicians, and legislators however; they are macro in scope and provide a broad snapshot of the *entire* economy. In most cases, they are poor tools to effectively and comprehensive describe relatively smaller geographic areas and regions like ZIP codes. And, finally, how about “custom” geographic areas specified by coordinates defining an analysis boundary?
ESRI Business Analyst Data obtained through the Business Analyst Benchmark Report service can come to the rescue with thousands of summarized variables describing the current and future socioeconomic, purchasing, and other characteristics of the underlying populations of areas as small as the Census block group to as large as the entire U.S. In addition to standard geographic areas, the Benchmark Report service also supports the analysis of custom-defined areas. The Business Analyst Benchmark Report service provides extensive, flexible, timely, and detailed data which can be easily requested and consumed through the ESRI Business Analyst APIs.
How Do We Widely Distribute the Data in a Rapid and Cost Efficient Manner?!
OK. So you now see the value of this effort. How do you make it simple, efficient, and cost effective for your clients, their potential investors, and for you? Well, thick reports are so “20th Century” and are costly to produce and resource intensive in many different ways. Additionally, with so many competing distractions, you have little time to loose in presenting data about Lawrence to potential investors. Their time is precious and you want to be able to provide them with access to powerful and comprehensive data in a fast and efficient manner. You also want to be able to respond to several other opportunities in different cities and localities since you made the initial investment with setting up the system (and your consultancy) with Lawrence. You want to minimize the re-engineering necessary with a regularly-updated, dynamic, and “scalable” data source and sustain your system.
In Part II of my discussion, I will conclude by describing to you and giving you the complete working application and source code to a Web browser-based Rich Internet Application (RIA) developed in the ubiquitous Adobe Flex framework (New to Flex? Check out this flagship implementation of the Business Analyst Online API in Flex here!). The sample application will offer hints and suggestions on how you can offer potential investors (and analysts, other organizations, legislators, decision makers, members of the public, etc.) the ability to easily and interactively look up the current and future socioeconomic, purchasing, and other characteristics associated with the underlying populations of different geographic areas.
It’s Over Already?! What!
I don’t want to get my boss angry at me for posting a blog that is too long (even though I have actually seen technical blog posts that look like theses or dissertations.)
In Part II of this blog, I will discuss the Business Analyst Benchmark Report service and actually demonstrate how quick and easy it is to develop with its Simplified XML (S.XML) output in the context of your task of “marketing” Lawrence, Kansas. As a bonus, I will provide access to a Web browser-based Flex demo and its complete and documented source code that leverages the tools that I discussed today. See you soon!