The Council for Community and Economic Research organized a teleconference-style focus group on March 11, 2015, to learn more about our members’ most commonly-used data sources and to gather recommendations for future products for the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Fifteen invited data users representing chambers of commerce, local and state economic development agencies, labor market and workforce agencies, and applied university research centers discussed BEA data programs and opportunities for innovation.
Many of the economic development data users indicated that in recent years their organizations have become more talent-oriented, which changes the type of data they need. As more areas attain full employment and/or pre-recession employment levels, economic development has begun to focus increasingly on wealth generation. This also affects data users’ needs for statistics, calling for more county-level data to show wealth disparities within states and regions. Focus group participants shared their desire to access data for very small communities as well. Some communities are so small that it is challenging to find any useful public data.
Overview of Recommendations from the Participants
During the 90 minute conversation, data users requested more timely data releases and suggested as BEA accelerates data releases, it will be important to better synchronize those releases. Data users also requested BEA to consider ways to adapt their web data delivery system to allow users not only to aggregate counties into nontraditional regions but also industries into customized groupings that would allow users to create into non-standardized clusters such as tourism, green business, or bioscience. Using BEA’s experience with aggregating industries, data users asked BEA to help in standardizing NAICS groupings for tourism and other clusters to facilitate comparisons between states. This need not be a formally adopted cluster definition; it might be the most common aggregations that users create.
The group participated in a dialogue initiated with help from BEA staff and facilitated by C2ER Executive Director Ken Poole. BEA Associate Director for Regional Programs Joel Platt and BEA Director Brian Moyer joined several other BEA staff on the teleconference as a way to listen to user concerns and incorporate those ideas in their agency’s future planning.