Economic Development, Higher Education, and Real Estate

GVSU identifies business potential in districts

August 29, 2014
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Johnson Center tool
The MetroEdge database by GVSU gives economic development organizations in Grand Rapids access to neighborhood-level data.

GVSU researchers are helping to drive economic development with a tool that provides access to key data on local neighborhoods.

Local data

Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy said last week that it has developed the MetroEdge database.

The free database compiles information on retail trends, commuter patterns, infrastructure, worker education levels and other demographics to provide information about the business potential of each of Grand Rapids’ distinct commercial areas. A couple of the specific demographics incorporated in MetroEdge include housing trends and income levels.

MetroEdge is an extension of the center's Community Profiles 2.0 project, which aims to create an accessible database for both the public and business leaders to use in policymaking, economic development and community building.

The MetoEdge tool focuses on economic development and enables business leaders and organizations to foster investment, employee recruitment and overall retention through the access to data.

“Numbers will tell a story," said Jeremy Pyne, GIS manager in the Community Research Institute at GVSU’s Johnson Center. "People have an idea of what is going on in their areas, their neighborhoods, their communities, but this gives them numbers they can use to tell that story. It is giving them hard data to put behind the decisions or the efforts they are trying to put into their communities.”

For instance, throughout the process, the data identified that 77 percent of the 125,000 jobs in the city of Grand Rapids are held by those who live outside the metropolitan area, and the number of vacant homes in the city has increased by 81 percent from 1990 to 2010.

Data gathering

In partnership with the Dyer-Ives Foundation, the team at the Johnson Center developed the MetroEdge database over the course of a year by incorporating background information already completed for the Community Profiles 2.0 project.

MetroEdge features data from several sources, such as Nielsen, the U.S. Census Bureau, Infogroup, Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids.

With a team of technical staff, programmers, web developers and students from GVSU, the majority of the year was spent creating the geographic districts and incorporating data into the Community Profiles database.

Business perspective

Part of the process included bringing in business leaders and community members to receive feedback on how the metropolitan area was divided into more than a dozen commercial areas.

Pyne said the center received "input and feedback on what is going to be useful for them as they do their day-to-day work." 

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