Industry, pay rates, the number of workers employed — mountains of data exist for every city in the world. Bowling Green State University’s Center for Regional Development (CRD) is looking to make all that data more accessible for businesses, organizations, and elected officials.
The CRD is devoted to finding solutions to economic and community development challenges in northwest Ohio, and the task of creating the Toledo Region Data Center was another way to support the community. Created for the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Toledo Region Data Center provides economic and workforce information for the Greater Toledo region with data being calculated for the Toledo metropolitan statistical area, which includes Lucas, Wood, and Fulton counties.
“The origin of this project was a conversation that we had with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce,” said Dr. Russell Mills, senior director of the CRD. “They mentioned that a lot of companies come to them and they often ask for pretty high-level data on the region. We brainstormed and came up with the idea of a dashboard for the region.”
Businesses hire a site selector firm to go out and do a first cursory look at a region, determine things such as average wage, population size, and workforce numbers in certain industries. In essence, the CRD created a dashboard to provide an easy one-stop-shop for companies looking to expand or relocate to the region.
It’s also a great way for BGSU students to support the local economy.
“This project, other than the initial connection and identifying their needs, was mostly done by our graduate students,” Mills said.
To get a better idea of how to go about creating the data dashboard, the CRD researched other areas that had a working dashboard in place from all around the country. BGSU students, many of them from the applied statistics program, worked on the different iterations that were presented to the Chamber.
“We had to have somebody collect the data and determine what data to present,” said Deminique Heiks, economic development program coordinator for the CRD. “We had graduate students assisting and tweaking the dashboard and we update it and determine if there are additional data sets that people are interested in and add that data. It’s a continuous process.”
Local businesses and bigger companies cycle through every area, and Bowling Green is no exception, making the information fluid. The Toledo Region Data Center is composed of data from a number of sources, including the Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“A lot of organizations tend to use people from out of the state or out of the region,” Mills said. “Our goal is to give people a sense of the capabilities that the CRD has within the region.”
The project was supported by funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s University Center Economic Development Program and the State of Ohio Rural University Program.