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Analytics- The Competitive Edge

Fred D. Burkhardt, President/CEO Geneva Analytics, Ltd.

Analytics is rapidly becoming the competitive edge for local economic development efforts.  Once a “nice-to-have” data, business intelligence and relationship management, is now mission critical for retaining and growing jobs, tax base and revenue for public services.

Virtually every economic development organization’s strategic plan contains a business retention and expansion component.  Well over 90% of the plan’s objectives involve identifying companies that may be experiencing serious downturns or that are doing well and may be recruited to another community.

Job retention, social and economic stability are the results of a successful retention and expansion program.  These results stabilize jobs and services needed by citizens and improve the overall economic fabric and quality of life for communities.

Programmatic results require that the local economic development organization overcome several major challenges.

The most common are:

  • Access to reliable sources of target company information
  • Access to industry trends for key sectors of a local economy
  • Cost of conducting direct mail surveys, tabulations and reporting
  • Adequate levels of staffing and volunteers for follow-up

Strip away all of the professional terminology and there are three basic objectives:

  • Identify “at risk” firms and, where possible, assist them
  • Identify firms that are likely to expand and assist them
  • Make and retain relationships with current companies that might be vulnerable to being recruited to another community

Data Mining & Analysis is the Differentiator

Given the speed with which the business environment can change, the tools needed by economic development staff must keep pace.  The tools must be cost effective, timely and produce reliable information.

We live in a world where virtually everything can be measured and monitored.   The analysis, use and application of information derived from that data are skill sets that are needed to make informed decisions.  .

The development and use of an asset based approach to strategic planning results in analytically driven economic development delivery system.  These processes put relevant, cost effective information on the desk of community leadership and organizations.

What is the Source of the Needed Information?

Information and data that feeds the analytical process emerges from three primary sources;

  1. Federal and State government All companies, in a community, subject Federal oversight and/or reporting should be scanned on, not less than, a bi-weekly basis for notices of acquisitions, sales, notices of layoffs, etc.
  2. Print and trade journals There are over 100 trade journals, site selection publications that bring both industry information via paid and earned media to the profession.  These include
    • UPI, AP, and Reuters Business News are scanned daily.
    • Construction reports include:
    • Construction Wire
    • Dodge Bid Pro
    • Construction News
    • Reed Construction Data
    • Local Business Journals for cities over 100,000
  3. The internet and social media The volume of data available via the internet requires constant monitoring.  Key social media sites should be monitored for indicators of local company activities such as layoffs and expansions.
  • Major social media sites scanned include: Facebook,  Twitter, LinkenIn, the Google+, Ning, LiveJournal, and Meetup
  • BizBrief sites and LinkedIn groups
  • Commercial real estate listing services


  • The internet, social media, print and trade journals and State and Federal reporting make it virtually impossible to maintain corporate activities and transactions.
  • There is a price for not being aware of marketplace happenings is significant. Failure to have knowledge of business relocations is usually the result of not paying enough attention, relying traditional business retention and expansion models or not asking the right questions.
  • Industry trends can change rapidly, not over the course of months. Being aware of the forces driving industry trends is the first step in being ready to assist an impacted local company.
  • Competence in the utilization of analytics will be the edge small communities have in retaining and attracting businesses, jobs and revenue.
  • If a community’s economic development management team is analytics-impaired, then the economic base of the community is at risk.


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November 2015
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