As I stated in my last blog post “Effective Economic Development Requires Data”, data is critical to understanding the local and regional economy. Expanding on that point, there are three main areas where data supports economic development.
Use data to inform economic development strategies
Data can help identify a region’s most important economic assets and conditions. The ability to identify these is important for making informed decisions about what industries to focus on for retention, recruitment, or start-up. This can also help get diverse stakeholder groups onto the same page. As a result, strategies built on data are more likely to stand the test of time because they are designed based on a commonly held set of facts, rather than being based on perception.
Data supports economic development strategy implementation
Data is a powerful marketing tool. Once specific target industries have been identified, data provides factual evidence that can be used to produce profiles or information packages for these industries. These packages can be used to market the development of a particular industry for which the region is advantageously competitive.
Using data for performance measurement
Data can help determine whether investments and energy in economic development are paying off (e.g. job growth). This is critical in today’s environment where there is pressure on local leaders to demonstrate success in terms of new job creation and economic growth. Decision makers cannot afford to back strategies that do not work. Therefore, they are increasingly demanding that economic developers provide analyses based on objective statistical data to help determine whether their investments are having the desired impact.
Data by itself, however, is inadequate to guide decision making in economic development. It takes the role of the economic development professional-to analyze, understand and interpret that data in light of local conditions-for data to be of real value in supporting economic development.
Please stay tuned to this blog as we explore in more detail how data supports economic development strategy development, implementation and performance measurement.
The Analyst tool, which is available to Ontario economic developers through a collaboration between OMAFRA and Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), is one of the best data resources to use to support economic development. It serves up the bulk of key data required for effective economic development in one easy to use interface. Find out more about Analyst including how to access it by visiting: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/rural/edr/edar/