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Build It, and They Will Come

by Monica Pratt, ArcUser Editor

ArcUser April-June 2001
VEDIS deisplays available properties.

VEDIS lets businesses locate available retail, office, and industrial properties as well as vacant land.

Economic development departments help local government thrive. Attracting and retaining businesses result in a broader tax base, a more diversified local economy, direct and indirect job creation, and fewer commercial real estate vacancies. However, the business of getting business is a highly competitive one. Much like consumers, companies have become comparison shoppers, and their site selection tool of choice is the Internet.

While many cities and other local governments use the Internet to list phone numbers, post city council agendas, and distribute other types of information, few have done much more than post static pages. Although making information that was previously available on paper more widely accessible electronically is beneficial, it doesn't realize the full potential of the Web. Through its interactive economic development Web site, the City of Vallejo, California, has tapped into the real power of the Internet by providing services that were not previously available.

The Vallejo Economic Development Information System (VEDIS), an award-winning application developed by GIS Planning, Inc., lets prospective businesses search for information on commercial sites. The site selection application can locate existing buildings or developable land. Visitors to the Web site can access business listing information and analyze demographic, economic, and traffic count data for the surrounding area. These analyses can determine if the workforce educational levels and/or consumer expenditure levels are compatible with the needs of a business. Listings of businesses already in the area can identify possible competitors or find companies with synergistic potential. After analysis, custom reports can be generated.

The information on the site is up-to-date. The City works with local real estate agents to keep property listings in the database current. By having real estate brokers and property owners input data about available properties, the City no longer acts as a "middleman" in the site selection process. This saves staff time and links prospective businesses directly to the real estate brokers or property owners who can make deals.

The City's aggressive economic development activities were a reaction to the closure of a major area employer, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The closure in 1996 resulted in the loss of 15,000 jobs and $668 million in revenue. City officials contacted Pablo Monzon of GIS Planning, Inc., a Berkeley consulting firm, about developing an Internet GIS application. By July 1998, just six months after the project began, the site was up and running.

ArcView Internet Map Server (IMS) generates the maps for the application. Demographic and economic data were purchased from CACI Marketing Systems, and GDT Dynamap/2000 supplied street and census block groups maps. The City of Vallejo and Municipal Resource Consultants are the sources for area business data. Customization in the form of task-specific dialog boxes provides an intuitive method of searching for available properties as well as demographic, business, economic, and traffic information. Brokers, property owners, and leasing agents can log into the site to add or delete a property listing. Although VEDIS was built using ArcView IMS, it will be converted to an ArcIMS application after improvements have been made by the City to the parcel basemap.

The project successfully combines an out-of-the-box Esri GIS solution with consultant expertise. The application was developed with input from City staff and private sector developers and commercial real estate agents. The automation of data input and search has freed economic development department staff from routine tasks and allowed them to pursue more complex economic development activities. The application also made sophisticated analysis tools and current detailed data available to businesses both large and small.

VEDIS displays available properties.

Current demographic, consumer, and business information is also available from the site.

The results have been very positive for the City. According to Anatalio Ubalde, the project manager for VEDIS since its inception, the City's retail space vacancy rate has decreased 46 percent since the site began operation, and new retail businesses attracted since the launch of VEDIS have resulted in more than $1 million in tax revenue for the City of Vallejo.

VEDIS has changed the way Vallejo woes companies. Prior to VEDIS, a company interested in the City would talk to a City staff member who would manually search for properties that matched the company's requirements in databases that were updated only a couple of times a year. After the advent of VEDIS, the CEO of a multimedia company contacted the ity, not to locate properties but to arrange a tour of five buildings he had already identified as desirable after searching on the Web site. After the initial tour, the company's second trip was devoted to discussing the details of actually relocating the company. This clearly demonstrates how VEDIS speeds up the site selection process. The following examples show how the City has benefited from this GIS Web application.

  • VEDIS was instrumental in the decision by FSC Foods Corporation to locate its North American headquarters in Vallejo. FSC Foods is the parent company of Jollibee, a highly successful fast-food chain in Asia. The Web application allowed executives in the Philippines to review potential sites in a virtual environment.
  • A bookstore leased space over a cafe in Vallejo's downtown redevelopment area based on research done at the VEDIS site. The company relocated from another county in the Bay Area after learning that more than $6 million in bookstore spending was leaving the Vallejo trade area.
  • VEDIS has helped attract retail outlets. The application led Starbucks to open its first store in the area, and the company now plans to open a second location.

This innovative use of GIS has not only brought a measure of prosperity to Vallejo but has gained national recognition for the community. Listed here are some of the awards VEDIS has garnered.

This project has definitively shown that building an Internet mapping application can cause companies to locate in cities they might not otherwise even consider. Build it, and they will come.

For more information on VEDIS, contact
Pablo Monzon
GIS Planning, Inc.


  • AMERICAN PLANNING ASSOCIATION, California Chapter Award of Merit for Innovative Use of Technology. September 2000. (State Award)
  • STOCKHOLM CHALLENGE, Award finalist.VEDIS was the only program finalist from the United States in the Public Services and Democracy Category. June 2000 (International Award)
  • AMERICAN PLANNING ASSOCIATION, Northern California Section Award of Excellence for Innovative Use of Technology. June 2000. (Regional Award)
  • PIONEER INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH, Better Government 2000 Award Finalist. One of 14 finalists. June 2000. (National Award)
  • NATIONAL CENTER FOR PUBLIC PRODUCTIVITY AND THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, Exemplary State and Local Award. One of ten national awards. Sponsored by the, Local Government Information Network. May 2000. (National Award)
  • U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, Economic Development Administration's Innovative Local Economic Development Programs. Selected as one of 25 innovative programs throughout the United States November 1999. (National Recognition)
  • CALIFORNIA LEAGUE OF CITIES, 1999 Helen Putnam Award, Honorable Mention Economic and Community Development Award. October 1999. (State Award).
  • CALIFORNIA TRADE AND COMMERCE AGENCY, 1999 Zone Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement-Best Web Site. September 1999. (State Award).
  • NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INSTALLATION DEVELOPERS (NAID), Best of Show Web Site. August 1999 (National Award).
  • Esri, Special Achievements in Geographic Information Systems. Program selected from over 100,000 programs worldwide. July 1999 (International Award).
  • COUNCIL OF URBAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (CUED) Economic Development Gold Award. July 1999 (International Award).
  • AMERICAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL (AEDC) Superior Award for Promotional Materials. June 1999 (National Award).
  • CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (CALED). Economic Development Program Award of Excellence. April 1999 (State Award).
  • CALIFORNIA GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION ASSOCIATION (CGIA) First place for Outstanding Internet Web Site, February 1999 (State Award)
  • NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES, Congress of Cities "Good Neighbors, Great Cities Showcase." Innovative Municipal Programs in the United States, December 1998.
  • Esri, Best Interactive Internet Geographic Information Systems Application, July 1998 (International Award).

Return to Table of Contents for April–June 2001 issue

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