We are essentially experiencing the rebirth of our city, and with that transformation comes the opportunity to leverage all that location[-based] technology has to offer to improve efficiency for our staff and services for our growing population. All of the individuals in our key leadership positions recognized the value GIS offered in supporting this rebirth, understood our vision for GIS, and saw what it would take to be successful.
Supporting Rapid Growth in the City of Grimes with GIS
In little more than a decade, the city of Grimes, Iowa, has nearly doubled in size, growing to almost 16,000 people as of 2021. Showing no signs of slowing, the city expects to add another 1,500 people per year. That growth has brought with it challenges and opportunities.
City administrators recognized early on that big changes would be needed to reshape Grimes into a city that could grow sustainably. That's included transforming the city's organizational structure, staffing, and overarching vision as well as the systems needed to deliver that vision.
Building a Foundation for Growth
New city administrators, understanding location-based technology was a critical part of supporting sustainable growth, entered into Esri's Small Municipal and County Government Enterprise License Agreement. It offered the city a suite of ArcGIS products and all the capabilities it would need to scale its geographic information system (GIS) infrastructure, optimize data, create efficiencies for staff, and foster engagement with its residents, all while keeping tight control on software expenditures. The agreement gave the city the tools it needed to win the race against time to have all its spatial infrastructure in order before the population doubles in size over the next decade.
"What we do now lays the foundation for the next 10 years," said Greg Jameson, Grimes's newly hired GIS technician. Jameson quickly identified priority areas to support with GIS—including data about streets, trails, tornado sirens, and city facilities such as parks—with the goal of creating a digital twin of the city. This would result in high-quality data, the rapid launch of new solutions, and the ability to use GIS as the system of record to holistically manage all of Grimes's data by integrating other existing information systems.
Going Big with the Right Support
The city knew it needed to scale quickly and start leveraging the tools at its disposal. Jameson called on Esri partner Pro-West & Associates to provide an Esri Jumpstart Package, a complete enterprise GIS base deployment configured to serve the city's needs.
A server diagram and specifications were produced, and together the city and Pro-West evaluated deployment options, ordered hardware, planned for future needs, and worked through a checklist to ensure that resources were ready as implementation grew closer.
During installation, Esri best practices were followed to ensure success. Each hardware component was given a dedicated server, allowing the city to fully leverage ArcGIS products, maximize reliability, and maintain flexibility to build on a robust foundation.
Jameson took extensive training—a cornerstone to supporting sustainable growth—that equipped him to administer the new system as it scaled. The GIS technician also learned about publishing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions, structuring components of the deployment, and employing Esri best practices.
Understanding Opportunity and Delivering Value
Leadership support for GIS investment and growth has been critical to the city's ability to deliver value through its GIS deployment.
"The ability to provide good value depends on having the right support to implement the tools we need to deliver that value," said Jameson.
With executive buy-in, GIS has fast become a force multiplier in Grimes. It is a system of record, connected to all other business systems in the city, providing data to staff whether they're working at a job site, in the office, or at home. GIS has also proved to be a system of engagement and a system of insight, especially as it provides information about future development scenarios and tracks previous planning efforts in the online zoning viewer deployed by Pro-West.
The city has been able to respond to planning and development needs in a timely manner, and city leaders no longer need to guess what the status of development is in Grimes. The city's Construction Activity Viewer, an app built using ArcGIS Experience Builder, highlights where active development is taking place inside the city, allows staff to review Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) collected through ArcGIS Survey123, see the current stage of development, and review inspection records. One of Esri's newest COTS offerings, the Sign Management solution, has been a hit with the city's public works department staff. Using the solution, over 3,500 signs were inspected in the first two months of 2023, providing insight into staff's inventory needs. The department expected to complete its sign inventory update and inspect all signs in town in just a few months.
The city's deployment of GIS has also bolstered Grimes's public outreach efforts. Using an online app, the public can review zoning, read the city's code of ordinances, or find information about city facilities and services including snowplow routes. The city also plans to develop park and trail maps for residents and deploy the ArcGIS Flood Impact Analysis solution.
Establishing a Foundation for the Future
The goal of Grimes's enterprise GIS journey has been to support the city's growing population and prepare for continual rapid development and transformation.
Early in the process, future needs were defined and planned for accordingly. This included server expansion in preparation for adding ArcGIS Monitor, ArcGIS GeoEvent Server, and a Premium Feature Data Store subscription to the city's base enterprise deployment.
Other long-term plans include adding asset management solutions and utility networks. Grimes also plans to grow the city's public-facing solutions to encompass recreation outreach, capital improvement planning, a property viewer, and a 3D basemap—all with the goal of easing access to information for residents and reducing the number of calls made to the city.
Grimes is also planning to use ArcGIS Enterprise Sites to build web pages for city departments and large groups. The result of the city's GIS deployment will be optimized workflows and a common location for the resources needed for staff to efficiently perform their work, enabling a new era of collaboration.
The city will continue to work with Pro-West & Associates for its expertise and to add capacity when needed.
Having a robust geographic information system has allowed the city to make data-driven decisions. Doing so has greatly assisted in creating a predicable environment for our business and development community.