Luncheon Highlights Data Applications
Over 100 NCEDA members joined research experts for a discussion on economic development data tools. The gathering was part of the organization’s December 5 Networking Luncheon.
“Successful economic developers are those who are really good at finding data and then helping others understand what that data means,” said Crystal Morphis, founder of Creative Economic Development Consulting, who moderated the session. The discussion focused on trends and tips economic development professionals can apply in marketing their communities and handling requests for information. Meihui Bodane, Assistant Secretary of Policy, Research and Strategy at the NC Department of Commerce, said business decision-makers no longer want to see the obligatory spreadsheets and numbers. “People want interactive data. They want to see the trendlines. They need the data to tell a story.” Her 40-person research team at Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) are now examining workplace credentials employers are seeking and how they fit into the state’s labor markets and workforce readiness solutions. LEAD’s datasets also support policy makers such as state education planners.
Elizabeth Saba, Research Manager at EDPNC, outlined the work of her organization’s three-person research staff. “We do lead generation and business intelligence research and also analyze our state’s competitive strengths,” Saba said. “Data visualization is definitely a trend that is very important.” Many of the requests her team currently receive involve insights about workforce. “Jobs are becoming more specialized in nature,” she said. “Site selectors and executives are very interested in long-term workforce resources.” EDPNC researchers can also share up-to-date figures on what clients and consultants are seeking in building specifications. While EDPNC and LEAD researchers often collaborate, local economic development practitioners should consider Saba’s team their first line of support. “We had a great conversation with LEAD and determined that it really makes sense to have one single point-of-contact for economic development-related research questions, and that point-of-contact is EDPNC,” Saba said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t refer you to a partner if you’re asking about a tool that may be more in their wheelhouse.”
Most research inquiries Cyndi Dancy receives involve state or community comparisons with competing destinations. “Context is key these days,” said Dancy, Principal at Dancy Research in Greensboro and a veteran of regional and local economic development organizations. “Then your community’s story can have more meaning behind it,” she said. While state and federal government data and proprietary research sources such as Dunn & Bradstreet and Hoover’s can go far in addressing day-to-day data needs, Dancy recommends local economic development organizations consult a third-party specialist to tap research that informs industry-sector targeting and strategic planning. “That’s when you’ll need an expert who can do a really deep dive.”
SynTerra Corporation sponsored the Networking Luncheon, which was held at the City Club in downtown Raleigh.