Off the Charts

There's a Map for That

**Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Written by Gregg Gothreaux

Whether you are a start-up, looking to expand or trying to woo a national client to Acadiana, LEDA can provide custom demographics, competitive analysis and industry research. One of the most common formats for this data is maps.**

As things begin to look up for the economy, it's time to start thinking about your business plan moving forward, if you have not done so already. Hopefully you followed the advice I offered in my column last year and kept doing what made you successful in the first place instead of cutting back. Being proactive and finding your niche in the market is always a smart idea in good times, and especially in not so good times. This is where LEDA's Information Services Department can help. Through the creation of customized reports, maps and data, LEDA's researchers can supply you with the information you need to make important business decisions.

With access to data points ranging from retail sales to employment figures, LEDA's team of researchers can conduct customized market research for existing and prospective Lafayette Parish businesses. Our researchers can also gather competitor and consumer data to assist in the growth and development of your company. Some of the most-requested research services include:

Demographics - up to 30 miles from a single point or any standard U.S. geography  
Economic Indicators - relevant statistics
Traffic Counts - local and state
Aerial Photography - 2009 and historic imagery
Industry Research - custom-built lists and maps of competitor/vendor/customer data

Custom demographics, competitive analysis and industry research may be used by start-up businesses to substantiate a business plan, by a company looking to expand to a second location, or by a real estate developer trying to woo a national client. One of the most common formats LEDA provides this data in is maps.

Information Services researchers use Geographic Information Systems technology to bind requested data to maps on a local and regional scale. The result is an organized illustration that translates and supports the data that researchers provide in report form. Different size options are available, and clients may request anything from a JPEG image of the map, for use in presentations and reports, to a poster-sized print. These maps are often the easiest method for analyzing and comparing data that is critical in making the best decisions for business development.

The most common mapping request is competitor location. People want to know where their competition is or isn't; and when that information is paired with available properties or demographics we can help them see the big picture. Maps 1 and 2 are examples of this. In the first map, LEDA noted all convenience stores and banks within Lafayette Parish. The second map shows the location of local fitness centers compared to several retail spaces a client was considering for a 24-hour fitness center location. From this map, our client can see which locations may be most practical or profitable and can make an educated decision about selecting a location.

The maps can be created with multiple layers of data that can be added or taken away as needed to best illustrate the project. For example, either of these maps could also include traffic counts at specific intersections as well as population density of males 18-44, or families with children, residents age 60 and older, or whatever the target market is. Having the ability to visualize his target market between possible locations, while identifying major competitors, will allow our client to make confident decisions.

The third map is an example of a more specialized map that LEDA can produce. The map illustrates the concentration of business in Lafayette Parish. Our research staff mapped the number of businesses per square mile by census tract to demonstrate that downtown is the most concentrated area of businesses in the parish. LEDA's manager of downtown business development is able to use this map to attract new businesses to the downtown district. These are just three examples of the individually customized maps you can request for your business.

A new service LEDA began offering this year is producing economic impact studies for specific projects on a case by case basis. An economic impact study identifies the economic contribution an organization, company, or project makes to the community. Based on the money put into the economy directly, multipliers are used to measure the additional effects through the interdependence of sectors within the community. These multipliers will vary from region to region; they assume a certain dollar spent gets spent again and again within the same community. Multipliers are often called estimators of the ripple effect. Each economic impact study quantifies the amount of output, income and jobs that are generated by the company, project or organization. It is the ultimate goal of each study to show the return on investment in order to create awareness, increase interest, get a foot in the door, or even break down community barriers.

LEDA can't offer a crystal ball and tell you what is best for your business. What we can offer is the most complete and accurate data available. And at the right price - free. That's definitely good for business.

Gregg Gothreaux is president and chief executive officer of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.