Measure Up!

Paytas-Blog1-Web-05-2016The ripple effect of big data and analytics is hitting economic development. There has been a resurgence in new tools that package economic data to make it more accessible to a wider audience. A lot of these tools are using aggregated data that is useful but it is often not granular enough to inform an individual EDO or city about how to improve its economy and what is working.

To do that we need better data that is more granular with details about specific projects and specific companies. Big Data relies on and pushes for this kind of transactional data. Much of this kind of economic data does exist but it is walled off by various bureaucratic walls. We are a long way from incorporating Big Data into economic development, and there are real risks with a pure Data Analytics approach to understanding economies and creating development strategies. Continue reading “Measure Up!”

Which Trend is Your Community Experiencing?

Number-Five

Fourth Economy Consulting has turned five and has topped over 200 client engagements in that short period.  And by engagements, I mean that we have had the great fortune to partner with community leaders all over the country as they work to strengthen their organizations and communities. This experience has provided me with yes you guessed it, five notable trends that I wanted to share with you.  Continue reading “Which Trend is Your Community Experiencing?”

Beware of Black Boxes

Beware-Black-BoxStatistics are like a bikini, what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital.  A variety of “black box” applications are being introduced for economic and data analysis.  These tools claim to offer intelligently organized data that provides neatly packaged insights.

On the positive side, these tools are very helpful and they are democratizing economic and data analysis.  They enable the user to see a variety of indicators with a few clicks, or do drill down into various industry sectors.  They also enable users to easily combine and compare indicators. Continue reading “Beware of Black Boxes”

Using Data to Make Smarter Transportation Systems (and Happier People)

I’ll be honest; the transportation system in Pittsburgh is one of my least favorite things about this city. If I drive to work, I begin and end my day in a state of stress and frustration from sitting in traffic and yelling at signals. If I take the bus, I have to have exact cash and, like this morning, have to stand in the pouring rain waiting – who knows how long? My guess is that you may feel the same about your city, wherever that may be. However, it turns out it doesn’t have to be that way! Continue reading “Using Data to Make Smarter Transportation Systems (and Happier People)”

Numbers Behind the News: Development Insights from Big Data

IBM estimates that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.  They do not, however, estimate how much of this data is duplicated – all of the documents emailed between friends and coworkers that get stored on personal devices, corporate servers and cloud machines.  By my own unscientific and completely arbitrary estimate, at least 55 percent of our daily data production is duplication.

Big Data includes a lot of transactional data – what you purchase from stores as well as your Google searches or the fact that Person A sent an email to Person B,  as well as the content of that email.  There is also data from sensors used in industrial production as well as climate, weather and traffic monitoring.  It includes Twitter and other social media posts, digital photos, Wikipedia entries and data produced by researchers, scientists, corporations and government agencies.

Big Data is often unstructured but it is usually timely.   It is not simply an aggregation of a bunch of data.  The challenge is to structure this data and make sense of it.  Economists and regional developers have been behind in tapping into Big Data but it can be useful in a number of ways.  Much of it enables firms to better segment customers or develop next generation products.  It can also provide value in itself by selling access to that data for specific types of users and uses.

One of the problems we have with a lot of economic data is that it is too structured or aggregated to make it useful for data mining and other Big Data analytical techniques.  For instance, our use and definition of industry sectors (NAICS) hampers analysis of emerging industries.  This structure is used to provide anonymity and confidentiality but it also distorts the kind of variation that is useful to better understanding how our economy works.  For one, we have no idea what happens within a nondisclosed NAICS code.  But even within a sector we don’t know how many firms are growing or declining or the magnitude of those changes.  For most economic developers working within a local or regional economy, it can make a big difference whether an apparent “industry trend” is broadly shared by companies in the sector or if there are diverging patterns.

Currently there are few sources of Big Data for economic development analysis, but job postings, social media feeds and patent data are a few that Fourth Economy has been working on to yield new insights on economic trends.  Patent data has been particularly ripe for this analysis, in part because it is so unstructured that it is difficult to analyze with traditional tools and techniques.  These can be frustrating times for analysts and for anyone seeking answers.  There is a wealth of data out there, but too often we aren’t able to hammer it into useful information.

We’ve set up a quick poll to gather some data of our own. It’s only one question, so share your thoughts.

 

Elements: Making a Difference in Indianapolis

 

Last month, the Fourth Economy team organized a panel discussion at the annual summit of the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) in Indianapolis, IN. The panel topic “Partnerships for Place-making” brought together a cross-sector of university, private real estate and community development specialists.

How colleges and universities can engage for community and economic development is an important fourth economy element. Aaron Laramore, Program Officer for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Indianapolis summarized the key resources and roles his regional universities play within the community development nexus.

The Role?

  1. Research and Analysis – They can help to effectively define the problem, determine how long has it been going on, how bad it is, and what can be done.
  2. Implementation – They can help development solutions, deployment strategies and evaluate results.
  3. Education – They can help inform the community on project opportunities and guide the community planning process

Resources in Indy?

Within the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IU-PUI) partnership, several centers and community resources exist.

The Center for Urban Health researches the enhancement of health and sustainability for urban populations, focused on environmental legacies to include reduced contamination, removing social and economic disparities and emerging threats such climate change and water quality.

The Center for Service and Learning partners students, faculty and staff with near campus neighborhoods to address community and social justice issues.

The Polis Center is an academic research center with practical and applied orientation on issues related to metro Indianapolis and other mid-sized American cities using geospatial information systems

The Outcomes in Indy?

Several key community improvement initiatives and development projects have resulted through these partnerships.

Improving Kids Environment (IKE) – IKE is a local non-profit in Indianapolis focused on the reduction of environmental threats to children’s health. IKE uses research and tactical expertise from IUPUI to educate residents on soil lead levels, environmental hot spots, safe gardening techniques and air quality monitoring.

Indy Indicators – Indy Indicators is a website resource measuring and engaging people in the quality of life in Central Indiana by providing interactive maps based on census tracts and neighborhoods on key indicators, metrics and community assessments.

IUPUI Fit for Life – Fit for Life assists neighborhoods in creating long-rage health plans to reduce obesity, heart desease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Fit For Life established a 6,000 square foot wellness center open for use by parents and community members

Growing Nearwest – The IUPUI Herron School of Arts enlisted two classes to create a garden identity and image for the initiative and marketing materials. A design team engaged community residents in determining relevant crops, garden sites and strategies to address water and labor engagement to support the gardens.

Click here to view Aaron’s full presentation:

LISC mobilizes corporate, government and philanthropic support to provide local community development organizations with 1) loans, grants and equity investments, 2) local, statewide and national policy support and 3) technical and management assistance.

If you have a fourth economy partnership story you would like to share with us, drop us a note below…