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Who's Using GIS? A Boon to Economic Development
Economic developers across the country are using custom GIS software to bring business projects to their states.
Catherine Dinsmore (June/July 10)
 
Customized Information
Earlier this year, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) incorporated a customized GIS into its website. The site-selection software, called Location Scout, brands the region using technology that goes beyond the capabilities of traditional real estate sites.

Sharing compatible files and custom layering were among the features that GWEDC was seeking in its GIS software. The easy-to-access custom layers include floodplains, bus routes, zoning, population density, and locations of other businesses in a specific area.

"You can take a virtual tour of a building, the surrounding neighborhood, and even check out the facility's roof," says Vicki Pratt Gerbino, CEcD, president of GWEDC.

"With Location Scout, we can locate the building, get a bird's eye view, and click property lines to determine if we can build out on that site," says Gerbino. "This is especially helpful when given a two-day turnaround for finding a requested property." For more information, go to www.gwedc.org.

Frequent Updates
Defiance County (Ohio) Economic Development was searching for a way to create uniqueness for its very small county. "We wanted our information to reach beyond the Midwest and still keep our costs low," says Jerry Hayes, executive director.

Defiance County also wanted to work with a GIS provider that would customize its product. "We did not fit into off-the-shelf software, so we chose a provider who would design our software in ways that were best for our needs," says Hayes. The frequency between software updates also was a major consideration. "There is nothing worse than stale information on a website," he adds.

The customized layers of the county's GIS provide detailed information on the area's infrastructure and bodies of water. Situated along the Maumee River, which is the largest tributary of the Great Lakes, Defiance County lends itself to processes needing a lot of water including steel, plastic, and food manufacturing. "That particular customized layer of our GIS will speak to that strength," notes Hayes. For more information, go to www.defecon.com.

Ease of Use
Keeping up-to-date databases was an ongoing struggle at the Lubbock (Texas) Economic Development Alliance (LEDA), which prompted the organization to establish its GIS called Location Hub.

"We used to go to each realtor's website and then put together a property database," says Elizabeth DeCastro, LEDA's business recruitment specialist. "Keeping that database up-to-date took forever," she adds.

At times, DeCastro and Marc Farmer, director of business recruitment, would put together a proposal only to discover that a property had been sold one to two months prior. "With Location Hub, we are able to do our research easily, e-mail the site selectors or business owners, and link them to our website and others, including the Office of the Governor's website," explains Farmer.

Ease of use was important to DeCastro and Farmer when they were investigating GIS software. "We wanted site selectors and business owners to be able to navigate our site easily," says Farmer. "Location Hub makes us competitive with cities who have GIS and gives us an upper hand on the cities that do not have this type of software." For more information, go to www.lubbockeda.org.

Enhanced Customer Service
NV Energy was looking for innovations in GIS software when they contacted a provider to help them launch Nevada Site Locator, the energy company's interactive GIS building and site database.

"We had a competitor's product that enabled us to search 15 of our 17 counties for commercial land or buildings," says Brad Woodring, manager of economic development for NV Energy. "With our current GIS software we now include all 17 counties at a better price."

NV Energy's Nevada Site Locator enables brokers, commercial real estate agents, landowners, corporate executives, and site selectors to conduct site searches and preview opportunities. "Our economic development team does very little searching; however, we provide GIS training to our customers to enable them to have full access to this free service," says Woodring. "We have someone on staff who downloads information sent by brokers, but we encourage brokers to do their own updates."

NV Energy's GIS database enhances the customer service provided by the economic development department. "We partner with all economic development activities in the state to promote opportunities for new companies to find an appropriate spot for relocation and expansion," says Woodring. "Our customers give us rave reviews about the amount of information in our GIS database that is available to promote properties." For more information, go to www.nvenergy.com.

 
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