East Hants—located between metro Halifax and the famous Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada—boasts rich diversity in both landforms and community members. The municipality is home to 21,000 residents and includes 11 districts spanning an area of 691.12 square miles.
The government of this fast-growing region uses geographic information system (GIS) technology in each of its departments. In particular, the Economic & Business Development Department recently began using GIS to help drive economic growth.
In crafting an economic growth strategy, East Hants planners needed to be able to consider all data in the context of location. In 2015, the municipality commissioned a strategic five-year economic development plan that identified location intelligence as a key factor in determining a community's state of investment readiness.
"Communities that are successful in attracting investment have done the required groundwork and research, making sure they are very clear about what investments are a good fit for their location and why," says Tyler Mattheis, acting director of Economic & Business Development.
East Hants planners already rely on GIS to help them perform economic impact analysis, guide spatial policy making, and research social patterns and relationships for development. For example, the Economic & Business Development team uses GIS to align commercial land opportunities with the right businesses. The municipality set a target of adding CAD$36 million in commercial assessment by 2030 and providing support to at least 150 local businesses annually.
Graham Scott, East Hants Economic & Business Development
Craft an economic growth strategy that considered data in the context of location.
Used Insights for ArcGIS to uncover patterns, trends, and correlations in business data.
Government officials and business leaders derived meaningful and actionable information from ArcGIS.
Graham Scott, business development officer, works in the East Hants Economic & Business Development Department and supports investment and commercial development. As part of his job, Scott uses Esri's ArcGIS technology for analyzing business data to uncover patterns , trends, and correlations. He applies both simple and advanced analysis methods, such as regression, variable prediction, density calculation, and aggregation, to foster economic growth.
Scott decided to apply a GIS solution to address the municipality's need to drive economic growth. He chose Insights for ArcGIS.
Insights for ArcGIS is web-based data analytics software made for advanced location intelligence. Scott and his team have been using the software regularly to help local organizations make the best decisions to support their business expansion.
East Hants government officials and business leaders can now get meaningful and actionable information from ArcGIS instead of having to sort through sheets of data.
In striving to align commercial land opportunities with appropriate businesses, Scott uses Insights for ArcGIS to merge datasets, identify relationships, and study patterns and trends. The outcome is a geoenabled report that explains local industry clustering and business-to-business supply chain spending. He then produces charts and graphs that represent industry mix and location to focus on trends and outliers. The next step is to use this critical information to develop selling propositions for the area, approach businesses, and then share with them relevant analyses to persuade them to invest in East Hants.
Although Scott is not a GIS expert, he is now an advocate for using geospatial technology for economic development.
"I was very impressed with the level of information I was able to pull out of Insights for ArcGIS, and the ease of use––the ability to do regression analysis, tie in spatial analysis, and the ease with which the platform does it––is so incredible," says Scott.
What used to take hours to do now takes only a few minutes for Scott and his team. The Economic & Business Development Department handles hundreds of requests for information from businesses and site selectors. Saving even a few hours on each request adds up to several days' worth of time per year that can be used for other projects.
In addition, the team used GIS data to analyze health-care and employment patterns, specifically regarding the issue of a local doctor shortage. Scott was able to not only offer a municipal client current intelligence on the physicians-to-population ratio but also to prepare forecasts for them. With Environics Analytics' Community Health Data Package and Insights for ArcGIS, he helped the client get a province-wide overview of the doctor shortage, drilled down to get details at neighborhood levels, and created a model using Insights for ArcGIS to present a real-time picture of the situation.
"With the help of statistical analysis in Insights for ArcGIS, we were able to look into the future, where those doctor shortages would occur and where the need for certain types of services would be created," explains Scott.
The more you understand GIS, the more value it provides. You learn so much by working in a geospatial environment—the location-enriched perspectives mean so much more than crunching numbers alone.