I work for a county-wide planning and economic development department and we've been using GIS in our economic development efforts for years, but only in the past couple of years have we begun to put anything available online and open to the public. Previously, if a client wanted access to any of our datasets (regardless of whether it was produced in-house or something publicly available from the Census Bureau) they had to work directly with one of our business analysts or economic development representatives. There were a few people higher up who absolutely refused to make anything available without meeting with us first. However, after a few of our neighboring communities and larger competitors started making more of their information more easily accessible, we finally got on board with that method.
However, now I often see the opposite problem in that some of our managers want to make absolutely everything available on our public site which is just too overwhelming for the end users no matter if they're just a curious web-surfer, somebody looking to start or expand a small business, or a professional site selection consultant. We're currently revamping our website and I'm working with those above me and in the other groups in our department to come up with a happy medium of information to share. I want to give away enough that it helps us make the first round of cuts for site selection folks but not so much that they give up trying to navigate our site. (In the past I've looked at the Fort Lauderdale site that the Governing article mentions and I think that's a pretty good happy medium)
One other thing that I've been playing around with is using the Story Map feature from ESRI's ArcGIS Online to help sell specific sites that we are working with communities to market. With a secure html link to a Story Map that highlights potential sites with some 3d modeling and overlays of traffic or demographics you could really enhance responses to RFPs.
We're currently revamping our website and I'm working with those above me and in the other groups in our department to come up with a happy medium of information to share. I want to give away enough that it helps us make the first round of cuts for site selection folks but not so much that they give up trying to navigate our site. (In the past I've looked at the Fort Lauderdale site that the Governing article mentions and I think that's a pretty good happy medium)
If a small organization with very limited resources wanted to use GIS on its website, what are some essentials for helping prospective businesses with site selection? Bonus question: Are there free online resources you* would recommend for putting some very basic stuff into place?
* The generic you. I welcome replies from any Cyburbian.
If you are a local government agency with a small budget who cannot afford a robust ESRI license and the manpower hours that go along with effectively using it, many state EDCs have subscriptions to basic mapped demographic and business data through ArcGIS Online or other private providers (like ZoomProspector or EMSI) that the states make publicly available and local counties and communities can often seamlessly piggyback right onto the state's website if they sign a user agreement. If the community is part of a major metro agency, there is likely a local council of governments or regional chamber of commerce that may have similar services that they can share.
The U.S. Census Bureau has a new data product called Census Business Builder that is available to anybody or any agency, public or private, and can be ported directly onto your website. The application is a bit wonky and the data is currently pretty limited, but I've talked with the folks from the Census Bureau who are in charge of this and they are working on improving it quite a bit and making it more usable. The application allows you to define a geography and see basic demographics and business stats for that geography OR define a business (by NAICS) and then pick a geography and see stats for that industry as well as associated and competitive industries. You can also filter by levels for a few specific demographics (age, income levels, education levels, etc.) to see retail spending patterns or narrow down on locations that may be more suitable for certain businesses.
As far as essentials that should be on your site - Surveys from site selectors that I've read say there are a few basic things that if they cannot find these on your site they will often drop you out of consideration and never reach out to you in the first place (or not look at your RFP response if they are going the RFP route):
Telephone number for who to contact for more information (even if they are looking to get as much information online on their own before contacting the agency or committee, this should be immediately findable on an agency's site)
Who are the top employers or some notable employers in a region - does not need to be extensive list but prospective businesses want to know who is already in a region
What is the basic mix of inudstries (in terms of establishments and employment) in the area
Basic snapshot of the labor market (labor force, unemployment, and jobless rate)
List of local utility providers and links to their contact info (this is especially important for people looking for sites for industrial developments)
A map of your location in relation to the rest of the region or the state (a zoomable Google map will suffice) - You may have randomly popped up on some site selector's radar but they've never actually heard of Rocky Mount, NC. You better quickly show that you are right on I-95, not far from Raleigh, and just a few hours from Hampton Roads or Charlotte, or Richmond. Don't expect the site selector to go to the added effort of opening a new browser tab to find that info themselves.
I am in a small town. I am currently involved with a local organization as an interested citizen/potential volunteer. I have also applied for a job with them. Whether I get the job or not, I would like to see the existing website better leveraged as an economic development asset. I appear to have the most qualifications for driving something like that.