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Fall 2005
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Missouri Department of Economic Development Maps Business Impacts of Hurricane Katrina and More

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This map shows the location of Louisiana-based transportation and warehousing industry establishments within a 100-mile radius of Hurricane Katrina centered near New Orleans.

While images of rescue and recovery efforts in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, filled TV screens, the Missouri Department of Economic Development was already at work making GIS maps to aid in the study of business impacts associated with Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Missouri was in a unique position to quickly perform the impact analysis because it was already working with the U.S. Department of Labor in a pilot project to use GIS for economic analysis and business development. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) was able to "plug in" business data on employers and employees from the storm-ravaged areas. Such data is routinely collected by Labor Market Information (LMI) offices within each state that, in turn, report their data to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For the purpose of the Hurricane Katrina study, BLS provided geocoded LMI data of the affected area to the MERIC team for analysis in GIS. Within days of the powerful storm, the potential economic impacts were visualized in informative maps on the MERIC Web site.

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This density map illustrates the concentrations of transportation and warehousing industry establishments throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

The MERIC team used ArcView and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst software to visualize and model the data. Alan Spell, GIS specialist at MERIC, says, "Initially, the maps showed the potential impact of the destruction." When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mapping and Analysis Center provided detailed hurricane damage assessments, MERIC created maps of employers and employees within actual damage areas. The level of detail and availability of the data enabled a very quick assessment and some immediate observations. Approximately 43 percent of transportation and warehousing establishments in Louisiana and Mississippi were in the potential impact zone. Likewise, 45 percent of business establishments and 46 percent of all employees were in a corridor of influence from the storm's path as it moved onshore just east of New Orleans and rolled north through Mississippi.

As efforts in the region now turn to rebuilding, GIS can be used to compare pre- and posthurricane business data to display employment impacts within the region and identify the hardest hit industries. "As employment data becomes available in later time periods, spatial analysis can reveal which industries have seen the largest changes in employment," says Spell. "Furthermore, with pinpoint business information, small area studies can now be done very quickly. Such analysis can be critical in determining targeted economic development and funding efforts."

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A hill-shade effect gives a 3D appearance.

MERIC is particularly capable at integrating and analyzing economic data as part of its mission for the state of Missouri. With GIS, it is able to deliver value-added analysis very quickly. GIS provides a level of detail that can help a municipality or region examine subcounty-level economic data and better determine "where to put economic development dollars," says Spell. MERIC will also continue its pilot project with BLS. MERIC was poised to quickly perform additional analysis as data became available following hurricanes Rita and Wilma at the close of the historic 2005 hurricane season.

For more information, contact Alan Spell, GIS specialist, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development (tel.: 573-751-9670, e-mail: alan.spell@ded.mo.gov).

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