successful economic development for local governments
Article

Data-driven economic development strategies for future project success

Authored by Kate Crowley and Thane Hutcheson

Today’s challenging and evolving economic situation makes it particularly important for communities to have access to economic and market data that will allow them to understand what’s happening in their local economies and take steps to plan for the future. Baker Tilly works with our clients to provide access to and analysis of these key datasets so that they may develop data-driven strategies as well as educate elected officials and taxpayers with a quantitative evaluation of decisions, strategies and investments. Planning for resiliency and growth in complex economic development landscapes is at the forefront of the work that we do with economic development organizations.

Demographics and economic indicators

Before a community can dive into complex analyses of potential investments or growth strategies, they must first have a foundational understanding of demographics and economic trends that are affecting the local economy. By assembling these conventional data sets, economic development professionals can communicate economic and demographic realities and help local leaders better understand the forces current shaping the local economy.

We work with our clients to create snapshots of their local economic situation, including demographics, economic trends, industry analysis and workforce dynamics. Much of this data can be accessed using traditional data sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. This demographic and economic data is the foundation for more complex datasets and analysis that a community may undertake as they pursue specific strategies or investments, as discussed below.

Real estate market research

Economic development professionals and community leaders armed with data and analysis about the dynamics of their local real estate market are better positioned to make decisions about investments in specific projects as well as direction for economic development strategic planning. We work with clients to evaluate and analyze data regarding retail leakage, housing availability and affordability, commercial occupancy, rents and sale prices, operating expenses and construction cost indicators. With this data at hand, economic development professionals can evaluate support for specific development projects as well as create strategies for efforts ranging from transforming a redevelopment site to understanding the market potentials and impacts of investments at the community and corridor scales.

Supply chain considerations

Due to the impacts on manufacturing supply chains resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic development professionals are now seeking strategies to support existing local businesses and attract new businesses by understanding their regional supply chains. As these professionals include or elevate the importance of supply chain optimization as a part of their business retention and recruitment strategy, they are leveraging economic data to understand the inputs and outputs of key industries and the leakages within the regional economy. In the emerging post-pandemic economy, companies will likely make their site location decisions with a heightened emphasis on the reliability of their supply chains, and economic development professionals who understand and can support this need will be well-positioned for success.

Economic and fiscal impacts

As communities consider investment in public-private partnerships and offering incentives to private development projects, an analysis of the fiscal and economic impacts of the investment is key to the evaluation. There are many industry-leading tools such as IMPLAN and EMSI that we use to assist our clients in evaluating the impacts to their economy from an investment, such as indirect and induced jobs and increased economic output. In addition to accessing these national-level data sets, we also recommend that an analysis is supplemented with project-level community impact assessments. To achieve this, communities need to evaluate location-specific tax impacts, consider recent economic changes that are absent from national datasets and assess community development objectives specific to a particular location.

Access to data

While economic development professionals appreciate the importance of economic and market data, many are unsure of how to access the data sets and, more importantly, how to interpret the data to inform policies and decisions. There are many datasets that are available without cost from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but others require paid-access or subscription fees.  With the increasing importance of data in the economic development industry, we encourage our clients to evaluate available datasets and have a plan for accessing them during planning processes and in reaction to investment decisions.

We can help

Baker Tilly’s public sector economic development team is available to assist your organization as you evaluate the use of datasets in planning and implementation efforts.

For more information, or to learn how we can help, contact our team.

Contact our team

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Kate Crowley
Principal
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