How do you measure success in your Economic Development programming? It’s a conversation we have here at IDM frequently. So much of the work our economic development clients produce is part of a larger, longer process that requires time and examination before results become evident. Fortunately, the ability of data sources to capture reliable, relevant data is constantly improving. Secondary data sources are getting quicker, and offering more information than ever through easy-to-access and easy-to-share formats.

Annual data is released this time of year by several federal agencies at all levels of interest: national, state, regional, county, and city. Data at all levels can be useful for economic developers, no matter the size of your service area. Comparing your “product” to the nation, state, region, and other counties and cities helps paint a picture of what sets you apart from the competition.

If you have not sought data lately, many changes have been made to make finding and accessing information easier. We offer the following list as a great place to revisit data sources you may not have visited for a while:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder: The Census Bureau has compiled most of its census and survey data in one searchable database. American FactFinder houses the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey, Annual Economic Surveys and many more in a format that allows a user to search by topics, geographies, industry codes, occupation codes, and others. Data can be downloaded into numerous formats and viewed on the website as tables or in some cases, maps.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau also has numerous data tools you may be interested in browsing through on the Data Tools and Apps page. This page has links to some great mapping applications and report generators including Census Flows Mapper, Census Business Builder, Industry Snapshots, OnTheMap, Metro/Micro Population Map Viewer, and QWI Explorer.
  • StatsAmerica, a service of the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) at Indiana University is supported by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and offers a great data portal. The data is obtained from many federal and state agencies, with some commercial or private source data. The page has links to interesting applications such as Innovation 2.0, Industry Clusters and Occupation Clusters.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce offers the Commerce Data HUB to connect users to datasets available from various government departments. The portal includes links to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, EDA among others.
  • The NACo County Explorer is a great mapping tool (and report generator) for counties. Several indicators can be mapped on the application, including demographics, transportation, social services funding, broadband connections, and many more.

These are just a few of the many sources of secondary data available to you for free. If you are at all like us, you can get bogged down in all the available data, so “knowing what you need to know” is a key factor in staying out of the mire. What are the indicators that your strategic planning process deemed as important? Do they tell the story of your work? What information will help your community’s decision-makers with resource allocation for economic development? Once you know what you need to know – the answers may be just a click away!