Category Archives: Data

Data and Budgeting for an Effective Economy

Government provided data plays an integral role in decision-making within businesses and government. It is important that the data be obtained and reviewed with a high level of rigor to maintain its integrity. A large quantity of data comes directly from the Federal government thanks in part to agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and most prominently, the Census Bureau. These agencies are all in line to endure cuts from the Trump Administration’s budget.
Supporters of the Census Bureau have raised concerns that the agency isn’t receiving the funds necessary to adequately perform the decennial Census. Government collected data has long been considered the “Gold Standard” of data resources, and for good reason; these agencies are fiercely dedicated to providing accurate, unbiased statistics. Our country depends on these statistics as a kind of lubricant for our economy; the better the information, the more efficient its operation.

We use the Census to determine how our local constituencies are represented. The BEA produces statistics that measure U.S. economic performance, like GDP. The BLS tracks our national unemployment rate, and the demographic statistics that compose the greater national reporting. Cutting funding for these programs could have negative repercussion to our economy and society.

The impact the Administration’s proposed budget has on the Census is particularly concerning. Compared to years past, the proposed funding ramp-up to the decennial Census is far behind, especially considering the new method the Census is interested in testing. The primary function of the Census is to make record of every person residing in our nation, and the Bureau is working to find better ways to execute the most accurate count possible. The Bureau understands that even a successful Census count, like the one 2010, comes with errors, and they are seeking out ways to improve their processes.

Citizens that change residences frequently can be missed, and those with more than one home are sometimes counted multiple times, or do not respond to the standard data collecting methods at all. This has a direct impact on political apportionment, and we should be encouraging the Census to develop new, modern techniques, not battling for funding that barely allows the Bureau to keep valuable programs like the American Community Survey (ACS) afloat. Using new methods to perform such a daunting task undoubtedly comes with uncertainty, but the Bureau of the Census estimate that investing in updates could save over $5 billion when compared to their traditional data collecting methods.

The BLS and BEA both serve to provide policy and business leaders with essential macroeconomic indicators. Monthly unemployment and national GDP statistics are developed by these agencies respectively. Those two statistical programs alone are immensely powerful, and important decisions, including the allocation of government funding and business development resources, are made with this information in mind.

These two programs aside, the Administration’s budget request explicitly states of the BLS that the Bureau “may need to delay or defer spending on…certain data improvement…and research projects…”, a statement that goes without saying considering the FY18 budget request doesn’t even allow the BLS to cover needed budget adjustments resulting from inflation. The National Economic Accounts, which produces the crown jewel of the BEA, annual GDP, faces a sharp 12% reduction in funding which will require the BEA to do away with developing new programs, like the International Trade in Services initiative, completely. In their Congressional budget estimate write-up, the Department of Commerce reports that, “Without these new data, U.S. businesses, trade negotiators, state and local planners, and other policy-makers will lack critical data to guide future economic decisions.”

Quality government provided statistics are an imperative that transcends the political spectrum; Democrats and Republicans alike can understand the important role that the government has in providing accurate data for the Congress. Members of the House and Senate need to know who they are representing if it is incumbent upon them to advocate for their needs. Further, good statistics are needed by both the private and public sectors. Free markets are more productive and efficient when business decisions are informed with reliable data. Good work from the Federal Statistical Agencies raises all the boats in the harbor. This part of our government is too connected to economic activities that result in jobs and wages to not receive the support it needs. The implications of the work done by agencies like the Census Bureau should be considered paramount to the government’s effort in promoting prosperity.

The Census Bureau requires upwards of $1.8B in FY2018 to perform the preparations necessary to conduct a full decennial Census. This upfront investment will ultimately save money and improve the quality of the data. BLS and BEA also have been facing cuts to vital programs due to a lack of funding and staffing and need your support. Contact your representatives to let them know you want them to support Federal data programs. The Census Project, C2ER, LMI Institute, and APDU will keep you up to date as the budget develops.

The Silicon Prairie

You don’t need a bay or a bridge to foster economic development within the technology industry.  What you do need are innovative entrepreneurs, savvy venture capitalists, and a talented workforce to put it all together as a service or product. Replacing the fog for storms, and exchanging the bay with expansive fields, there rests a burgeoning tech hub in Lincoln Nebraska.  Lincoln and the greater Great Plains area have been attracting significant investment and talent from the tech industry in recent years.  Specifically, the Omaha-Lincoln Nebraska region has experienced an influx of investment into software-application firms from 2011 onward.  The expense and pressure of starting a technology company in Silicon Valley may be pushing innovators and entrepreneurs elsewhere.  The pressures and dynamics of the valley aside, local municipalities and economic development coalitions have also fanned the flames of growth in Lincoln. The result has been the proliferation of tech start-ups in the region.

A more robust and accessible internet has made it far easier for entrepreneurs to navigate the obstacles that come with founding a tech start-up. Entrepreneurs and technologist workers alike are considering quality of life measurements and personal preferences more and more when it comes to establishing a new firm or finding a place to work and thrive.  This has led regional municipalities to work toward attracting nascent tech firms to their areas.  Austin, Des Moines, and Chicago are all in concert with Lincoln in proclaiming themselves a rising tech hub.  Although not front and center, economic development consortiums and public-private development co-ops are both stakeholders involved in Lincoln’s success in technology industry growth. With cheaper cost of living already built in, Lincoln simply needed to seize the opportunity present and provide the needed support to finalize tech firm migration into the county.

This development has brought plenty of opportunity for technology jobs. There has been over a 500% increase in the number of jobs within the software publishing industry in Lancaster County , the county in which Lincoln resides, over the past 5 years. Moreover, the average earnings per job is over $100 thousand annually (Source: Emsi 2017.2).  Private venture capitalists and publicly sponsored angel investment groups like the Nebraska Angels have nurtured young start-up firms like Hudl, a technology firm that provides video recording and editing software for athletes and coaches, and helped them lay a foundation in Lincoln.  Hudl is unique in that it was founded by Nebraska native, David Graff, who worked in the Athletics Department at the University of Nebraska.  Hudl was convinced to stay in Lincoln and is building a new $32 million headquarters after having secured $72.5 million in additional investments in 2015.  The new facility should add roughly 300 jobs to the area by 2018 and the average total annual compensation for employees at the Hudl headquarters will be roughly $60,000.

This sort of economic development is the result of investors working together with municipalities to finalize a valuable deal.  Although appraised at nearly $70 per square foot a few months prior, the land to be developed by Hudl was sold by Lincoln at half the price to ensure their commitmentMore recently, near Omaha, Facebook announced they will be building their next data center in Papillion, Nebraska after negotiating a deal with the Omaha Public Power District that will provide Facebook with the power they need while using renewable energy sources, which Facebook prefers.  This kind of flexibility by the local government is illustrative of what municipalities can do to attract new jobs and promote development.  Both cases required local entities to work toward the greater benefit of the region.  Paul and Stephanie Jarrett, founders of Bulu Box, the online health company that ships samples of health supplements, fled their 500-square foot apartment and headquarters in San Francisco to grow their business in Lincoln to take advantage of the cheaper capital and different kind of professional environment.  Bulu Box was originally just like the sea of young start-ups that reside in the Bay area.  That was until they received seed investment from the Nebraska Angels and the cleverly named Kansas based VC firm, Flyover Capital.

Silicon Valley could be discovering its own capacity for young technology firms and the willing appetites of economic regions abroad are finding ways to take advantage of this overload. Conventionally popular and expensive tech business incubators like San Francisco, Seattle and New York are leaking talent out to the rest of the country.  Local investors and economic development practitioners may mirror the steps taken by those in Lincoln, who have provided support that is customized to fit the needs of new businesses.  Of course, the most effective way the “Silicon Prairie” and Lincoln can continue to attract technology firms and workers from around the country is to rely on its most distinct advantage; it’s not in Silicon Valley.

 

 

 

President’s Budget Overview for Economic Development and Statistics

Economic Development Related Cuts

  • The Budget proposes to eliminate funding for many independent agencies, including: the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Northern Border Regional Commission.
  • Eliminates the Economic Development Administration, which provides small grants with limited measurable impacts and duplicates other Federal programs, such as Rural Utilities Service grants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and formula grants to States from the Department of Transportation. By terminating this agency, the Budget saves $221 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates the Minority Business Development Agency, which is duplicative of other Federal, State, local, and private sector efforts that promote minority business entrepreneurship including Small Business Administration District Offices and Small Business Development Centers.
  • Saves $124 million by discontinuing Federal funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, which subsidizes up to half the cost of State centers, which provide consulting services to small- and medium-size manufacturers. By eliminating Federal funding, MEP centers would transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources, as was originally intended when the program was established.
  • Reduces duplicative and underperforming USDA programs by eliminating discretionary activities of the Rural Business and Cooperative Service, a savings of $95 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the Title 17 Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program because the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies.
  • Expands DOL Reemployment and Eligibility Assessments, an evidence-based activity that saves an average of $536 per claimant in unemployment insurance benefit costs by reducing improper payments and getting claimants back to work more quickly and at higher wages.
  • Decreases Federal support for DOL job training and employment service formula grants, shifting more responsibility for funding these services to states, localities, and employers.
  • Helps states expand apprenticeships, an evidence-based approach to preparing workers for jobs.
  • Eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which was originally conceived of as a temporary program nearly 40 years ago to provide subsidized commercial air service to rural airports. EAS flights are not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger. Several EAS-eligible communities are relatively close to major airports, and communities that have EAS could be served by other existing modes of transportation. This proposal would result in a discretionary savings of $175 million from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • Eliminates funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Further, DOT’s Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits. This grant program is authorized at an annual average of $900 million through 2020.
  • Eliminates funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grants, a savings of $210 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. The CDFI Fund was created more than 20 years ago to jump-start a now mature industry where private institutions have ready access to the capital needed to extend credit and provide financial services to underserved communities.
  • Achieves $12 million in cost savings from the 2017 annualized CR level through identifying and eliminating those SBA grant programs where the private sector provides effective mechanisms to foster local business development and investment. Eliminations include PRIME technical assistance grants, Regional Innovation Clusters, and Growth Accelerators.

Statistics Related News

  • Provides $1.5 billion, an increase of more than $100 million, for the U.S. Census Bureau to continue preparations for the 2020 Decennial Census. This additional funding prioritizes fundamental investments in information technology and field infrastructure, which would allow the bureau to more effectively administer the 2020 Decennial Census.
  • Consolidates the mission, policy support, and administrative functions of the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Secretary.
  • Reduces funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while maintaining core Departmental analytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete the Census of Agriculture.

CREC Publishes State Data Sharing Report

State governments are demanding more rigorous analysis and evaluation of government funded economic and workforce development programs.  Administrative records, which are data regularly collected through the operation or administration of state or local programs, contain important information on the characteristics and behaviors of companies and workers.  These records, such as corporate tax and unemployment insurance filings, hold great promise to improve program outcomes.

The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) report, Improving State Administrative Data Sharing: A Strategy to Promote Evidence-Based Economic and Workforce Development Policymaking, highlights the legal and regulatory environment, best practices, and reform efforts that encourage safe and secure data sharing in ways that protect confidentiality while improving program evaluation.

As part of this project, CREC collected information about data-sharing issues from 65 national and state experts, supplementing those insights with the development of a database of the actual laws and regulations governing data-sharing in more than 40 states.

The report summarizes the findings from our research and offers a new framework for understanding individual state policies.  States can use administrative records to analyze and evaluate programs to their benefit in a number of ways.  For instance, data sharing helps improve the quality of program evaluation efforts, reduces the costs associated with conducting rigorous evaluations, ensures that agencies can more readily identify potential program related fraud, and provides a third-party source for benchmarking data provided directly to the program agency by client firms or individuals.

Despite these benefits, significant barriers limit data-sharing.  These are also discussed, including state data governance policy, data sharing process management, information technology requirements and limitations, and user understanding and accessibility.

The CREC report recommends that state efforts to encourage data-sharing focus on four areas:

  • Educating state leaders on the value of administrative data and how it can support more evidence based policymaking while reducing government costs to evaluate programs;
  • Encouraging agency leaders and staff to understand that sharing data for appropriate purposes and maintaining the highest standards of data confidentiality are not mutually exclusive;
  • Providing greater visibility to and more resources for agency efforts to streamline data sharing policies and processes; and
  • Establishing more structured and transparent processes for reviewing data sharing requests.

The report is part of a two-year State Data Sharing (SDS) Initiative. While focused on economic and workforce development, the lessons can inform actions in broader policy areas, like education, health, and criminal justice policy. SDS seeks to improve public policy program outcomes by enabling evidence-based policymaking through greater sharing of state administrative records in support of rigorous policy analysis and program evaluation. CREC has also created a website to share information and tools about the SDS Initiative, www.statedatasharing.org.

The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness is a national nonprofit organization focused on encouraging evidence-based economic and workforce development policy.  The SDS Initiative helps achieve that mission by improving the quality of data to support better decision making.

Support the 2020 Census

We need your help.  We need you or your organization to help educate your Congressional leaders on the importance of funding the 2020 Census as well as related “periodic programs” such as the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census.

The U.S. Congress is back in session this week (November 28), and they are taking up the federal budget.  The federal government is currently funded through December 9 through a continuing resolution (CR).  Congress is expected to pass another extension through March rather than completing action through the end of the fiscal year.  Census needs attention because we are at a critical planning stage for the 2020 Census. Not only is it important to count our citizens accurately, but adequate 2020 Census funding also has potentially critical impacts on other data programs that are funded from the same program account, including the ACS and Economic Census.

First, planning for the 2020 decennial census is in a precarious funding position.  As the Census Bureau ramps up planning for 2020, the agency typically receives budget supplements to accomplish important preparatory tasks. While these tasks require funding, the CR process provides resource increases only if Congress approves a “spending anomaly” for Census, authorizing more funds.  Congress did not do this in the first CR passed in September.

In the coming fiscal year, Congress is asking the Census Bureau to complete tasks that it would not typically have to undertake outside the 2020 Census planning cycle.  For instance, the Bureau must test and submit topics for both the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey and begin testing alternative data collection methods designed to drive down overall costs for the 10-year cycle. Census is also testing new information technology systems and completing a dry run in 2018. Census is also seeking other ways to hold costs down, including using Internet responses – an option it could not use in 2010 due to lack of funding that ironically ultimately increased the cost of the Census.  The irony is that insufficient funds now could lead to cost overruns later in the 2020 planning cycle.

The Census is funded from a program account that includes the American Community Survey and the Economic Census.  Overruns in the 2020 census implementation could threaten these two critically important programs.  ACS is the only source of granular information about demographics available annually by community that not only Congressional leaders use to understand their districts but that economic and workforce developers use to recruit companies and serve jobseekers.  The Economic Census is the primary data source about business buying and selling activity that we use for econometric models explaining multiplier impacts and a key source for understanding clusters and supply chains.

We are asking you to reach out in 3 ways in the next two weeks:

  1. Contact your Congressional office to let them know how important this issue is to you or your organization’s efforts.  It would be helpful if you could provide 1 or 2 examples of how these data help your organization create jobs and put people to work more efficiently.
  2. Share this call to action with your state or local network; ask your colleagues to reach out as well.
  3. Feel free to blind copy us on any appeals you make on Census’ behalf.

Support for the 2020 Census is vital, not only to ensuring we have an accurate and complete count of Americans but also to ensure that programs such as the American Community Survey and the Economic Census are protected.

Thank you in advance for your help!  We will keep you up-dated on what Congress ultimately decides to do.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Wants to Hear from You!

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policy wants to hear from you. The Commission is soliciting input from stakeholders on issues relevant to the Commission’s charge, established in Public Law 114-140. We are interested in hearing about data access issues, barriers to research, issues related to the capacity of states to engage in data and evidence building and issues related to privacy and confidentiality.

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Puerto Rico Featured in Quarter 1, 2016 Cost of Living Index

The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) is happy to announce the release of the Quarter 1, 2016 Cost of Living Index (COLI) publication. This is the first publication to feature San Juan, Puerto Rico in the official publication. 2016 marks the second year San Juan has participated in COLI’s data collection process. Grocery and utility prices appear to be the highest in the city, almost 30 and 70 percent above the U.S. national average, respectively. The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics has assumed the responsibility of collecting the data.

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Getting “Within WIOA” at the C2ER Conference and LMI Institute Forum

Akin to the spirit of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the 2016 C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum bring together economic and workforce development practitioners to enable the development of data- and job-driven strategies that foster local and regional economic growth. At the Conference and Forum, you will have many opportunities to learn from peers from across the country about their experiences, lessons, and successes related to WIOA implementation.

Sector Strategies

WIOA requires states to develop, convene, or implement sector strategies. Collecting and analyzing relevant and reliable labor market and workforce information ensures that sector strategies are aligned with local needs for in-demand sectors and occupations. The “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – Part I: Targeting Industries” session will explore employer-driven partnerships between industry, educators, and other actors to address urgent workforce needs. This session will be moderated by Stephanie McGarrah, a Senior Strategy Consultant for the UNC Health Care System, and will feature Deidre Myers, President of The Myers Group, LLC, and Hillary Huffer, Labor Market Information Manager for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation.

In-Demand Occupations and Skills

Identifying in-demand occupations is at the foundation of WIOA, but pinpointing the skills required for those occupations is also of utmost importance to a dynamic and high-functioning workforce system. The “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – Part II: Matching Skills and Jobs” session will examine both the demand and supply sides of this challenge by analyzing the perceived skills gap and reviewing research tips and techniques to determine whether industries truly have the skills they need. This session will be moderated by Lesley Hirsh, Director of the NYC Labor Market Information Service at the CUNY Graduate Center, Center for Urban Research, and will include experiences from Nebraska and Utah’s LMI offices.

Labor Market Information (LMI) and Program Evaluation

Another important aspect of WIOA is that it makes significant new demands for labor market information and economic evaluation, and therefore creates opportunities for researchers of all stripes to develop and extend capacities to support the public workforce system. During the “Data Tools Roundtable” session, you can engage in a dialogue to learn more about research needs and resources, as well as to brainstorm “entrepreneurial opportunities” for your organization to help provide data and analysis to local and state workforce boards. This session will be moderated by Adrienne Johnston, Director of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and will feature Steve Hine, Research Director for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

This year’s C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum focus on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool. We will take time during trainings to show trends in data-visualization software and discuss best practices. We invite you to visit the conference site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.

Video: Applied Data Visualization and Moving from Theory into Practice

One of the best ways to better interpret data, make decisions, and get your message across is to use a visualization that quickly draws attention to sometimes surprising patterns and observations that are not always apparent.

Data visualization, a wide term that applies to visual representations that attempt to help viewers better understand data, can be used to help broader audiences understand and digest complicated data.

This year’s Council for Community and Economic Research Conference (C2ER) and LMI Institute Forum is focused on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool. We will take time during trainings to show trends in data-visualization software and discuss best practices. We invite you to visit our event site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.

Managers to Merge in Minneapolis: Who You’ll See at the 2016 C2ER Conference

This year’s Council for Community and Economic Research Conference (C2ER) and LMI Institute Forum is focused on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool.

The conference takes place June 6-10 in Minneapolis. Classes, presentations, and breakout sessions are designed to guide state, national, and regional-level managers that want to be better enabled to make positive impacts both at home and abroad. Frequently, the people we work with and speak come from organizations that either provide strategic international partnerships or are growing their own understanding about globalization’s regional affects on their daily business.

The fundamental reality is that promoting an active global perspective among labor-supply specialists, economic developers, and researchers is essential to developing sustainable regional partnerships. Globally focused relationships and mindsets give leaders the foundations needed for international collaboration that addresses the greatest challenges in producing jobs and improving workforce quality.

C2ER and the LMI Institute, Leaders in the Field:

For 56 years, C2ER and the LMI Institute have brought together chamber leaders, administrators at government agencies and universities, data and labor-market experts, administrators at economic-development and utility firms, and consulting directors. Economic researchers and labor market specialists have added value to their state and municipal agencies after attending the event. We invite you to visit our event site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.