For three years the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation has been the only development board in the city’s five boroughs to offer a Geographic Information System (GIS), which is used to create maps based on local economic and population statistics, free to all not-for-profit business development agencies. Now the BOEDC is trying to get even more bang for its buck by putting the services in a free online database for all small business owners or people looking to start up their own enterprise.
The BOEDC plans to launch the free online GIS database by the end of the month, and officials have been holding informational sessions with non-profit agencies throughout the borough to teach them what can be done with the system. Although the online database will launch soon, the BOEDC plans to continually update the site for the next six months, Kate Schackford, BOEDC executive vice president, said.
“The geographic information system is a spacial data mapping system that takes several layers of data and turns it into a map. It can take a network of streets and different social services and then even add another layer, like demographics, income levels, or types of buildings. There’s just a lot of uses for it in terms of commercial world,” she said. “It certainly can help in terms of marketing the areas and projecting what types of businesses they need that aren’t already in the area. For instance, if you want to have a pharmacy come in, we can map where all the other pharmacies are so you can see where all the others are in a two mile radius.”
The system uses data from a variety of city and federal sources, such as local tax maps, building codes and the national census, to create the maps. Mapping the data across a geographic area can help business leaders to find patterns for successful ventures and answer questions about how future business should develop, Schackford said. The maps will be continually updated to stay as current as possible with things like business vacancies or annual sales volumes for individual businesses.Over the past three years, the BOEDC has used the GIS for everything from writing and researching grant proposals to setting up bus lines.
“We run the Hunts Point Clean Air Transportation Shuttle Service, and the GIS was used to route the map in relationship with the Bronx 6 bus, so it would not be in competition with it,” said Schackford.
The effort to put the database online is being paid for through a grant program from the New York City Department of Small Business Association, which is focused on helping people start, operate and expand their businesses in the city. By putting the system online Schackford hopes more business development agencies and businesses will be able to utilize the technology.
Recently a representative form the BOEDC met with members of Community Board 10 to discuss the uses of the system. Although district manager Kenneth Kearns said he does not expect the community board to use the system directly, he expects the technology will be useful for businesses in his district, and he plans to refer the technology directly to the business owners.