ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

August 2010

Esri Business GIS Summit Shows How GIS Technology Benefits Businesses and Customers

GIS: A Life-Changing Technology

By Karen Richardson, Esri Writer

  photo of Mac McClure
Charles A. "Mac" McClure counts on GIS in business.

"GIS changed my life!" said Charles A. "Mac" McClure III, CCIM, FRICS, CRE.

The Texas real estate developer and businessman told the story of how he became enamored with geographic information system (GIS) technology to more than 150 attendees at the seventh annual Esri Business GIS Summit last month in San Diego, California. The summit was held July 11, the day before the start of the Esri International User Conference.

The agenda was packed with presentations and papers that focused on how companies around the world like Visiothink Ltd. in Turkey, commercial developer MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, and Arvest Bank, use GIS to save time and money, improve customer service, and make better decisions.

As chairman of the board of McClure Partners, a full-service real estate brokerage and development company based in Dallas, Texas, McClure discussed how he relies on GIS to open franchises in high-risk segments of the U.S. market. By understanding local marketing and demographic data along with geographic aspects such as competition, streets, and service areas, McClure has successfully opened a number of Chili's restaurant franchises in locations that others deemed unprofitable. GIS has also helped McClure successfully invest in locations for Aaron's Inc., a company specializing in leasing furniture and electronics. McClure uses the same business techniques and models to find the best locations for Chili's restaurants as he does to open Aaron's stores in areas that have historically been written off because of low income and unemployment. Bringing in new businesses like this revitalizes communities and brings growth to economically stagnant areas.

"Giving people the opportunity to own items they need—from washers and dryers to nice, quality furniture—helps them take care of their families," said McClure. "They have a sense of pride that translates into taking care of their homes, cleaning up streets, and making their neighborhoods better places to live."

  photo of Manny Rios
Manny Rios says visuals such as maps make more compelling storytellers than databases or spreadsheets.

The second keynote speaker, Manny Rios, spoke in the same vein about how creating healthy businesses and helping communities can go hand in hand. Rios is senior vice president, property and casualty underwriting, at United Services Automobile Association (USAA), which provides financial services, including insurance coverage, banking, and investment assistance, to military personnel and their families. GIS has helped the organization provide better services to its members by understanding the environmental risks near their insured properties, then helping them learn how to manage those risks they face, he said.

"Something as simple as advising customers in high-wind areas that a certain type of window shutter can better protect their home and family is an important component in our commitment to service excellence," said Rios.

The use of GIS has evolved over the years at USAA, and Rios discussed his methods of proselytizing about it throughout the company. Although the organization had experience using GIS before Rios came onboard, with his vision, geographic data and analysis is now being used throughout the company.

Rios says his eye-opening moment was when he understood the concept that visuals are more compelling storytellers than spreadsheets or databases, especially in a business as location oriented as insurance. "You truly realize the relationship between a big ocean and tiny house when seeing them on a map," he explained. Read the complete interview.

Simon Thompson, Esri's director of global business, summed up the summit by explaining, "GIS brings together two important aspects of business: people and place. Every business has a persona, and using this technology, we can go beyond traditional segmentation to pick out individuals from the crowd. GIS ensures that people have the products and services they need, no matter the place."

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