Economic Census

By author

Today, we have over 1,700 stores in 49 states and we employ over 300,000 people. Economic Census is really important to Target. We use it in two ways. One, to measure our market share in metropolitan areas in states across the country, and secondly, we use it to watch how consumers are spending. We rely heavily on the economic information such as jobs and the workforce statistics to be able to plan our business cycles and help us understand what the consumers are going through to be able to plan our sales projections for the following year. No one else but the Census Bureau has the resources and ability to collect the information at this level of accuracy.

The way my company uses Census data, given that, why I am a minority certified company, is that we are very cognizant and aware of what has happened with the latest Census numbers with the emergence of the Latino community becomes very important to understand that the landscape both from a social economic perspective as well as a business landscape perspective is changing and is changing rapidly. And I think it is incumbent upon business owners like myself as well as my fellow business owners around the country to recognize that Census data can really serve as a strong, strategic planning tool to forge the future of your business. When I’m updating my business plan, most of the information that we gather is from the Census Bureau’s website. We also, of course, use associations like the Day Spa Association, our Chamber, the local news sites, things like that, but mainly it all comes from the Census Bureau.

The Economic Census gives me the data that allows me to remain competitive in my industry. One of the reasons my business has been so successful is simply just from planning and forecasting. And the Census Bureau allows me the information to do just that. When we look at Economic Census data, I’m generally looking at industries that are specific to my industry, industries that are similar. So I would look at gross revenue of other industries, other child care centers in the area of where my center is located. I compare my business to other businesses in the industry as a measure of competitiveness and quality when I’m looking at things like the size of my business compared to others in the industry. I also look at the number of employees they have as compared to mine.

Homebuilding is a very competitive industry. There are a lot of home-builders out there that are competing with each other every day. So a better understanding of what their competition looks like gives that entrepreneur a much better step-up in understanding how to conduct their business, what to do to change — to do better and what other people are doing so they have some examples to go by. From the Economic Censuses we rely upon the sizes of the industry, the sizes of the individual companies, where they’re located so we get a better idea of the geographic distribution of home building and how do your individual companies compare to the larger companies in the country and in your particular specialty. We need to have benchmark data to measure against and Economic Census is taken once every five years, but the five year data measurement is the most accurate reflection of the current housing market standing, in the country. So it’s critical to have the Economic Census measurements to help us understand what’s happening to the level of competition in the marketplace.

What will be the level of service that can be provided to the local community in terms of the business? Who can serve the population who want to buy a home, want to sell a home? So it’s critical to understand these types of data movements. The availability of the five year Economic Census, now with a host of that information available online, it does allow an individual restaurant operator to determine, for example, if they want to expand their operation. What are the market conditions? What are the demographic parameters in that area? And in terms of determining a competitive set and bringing it down to the zip-code level, there really is a whole host of information that the typical restaurant operator can use and leverage to ensure that when they make that business decision to expand that they are actually doing it based upon the best available market information.

It really is a unique source that does not exist anywhere else. The Census data, indeed, is as descriptive of the real situation as we have out there and so when a community really wants to understand «Well, how many households do we have making less than $25,000 a year?» This is a question that has lots of different implications. There’s really only one place to go to get that kind of information. I use data services that are based on — that either draw directly from government data or draw their own conclusions from the government data. No way you could do any economic analysis without government data — it’s key. The economic data that we have, without it, we’re completely in the dark. And markets can’t function in the dark. We’ve already seen the role that uncertainty has played in suppressing growth. So, the more clarity we have, the more information we have about the economy and all the levels of which it’s evolving, how it’s changing, what’s happening, benchmark revisions, changes to the structure of the economy.

This is critical in everything from forecasting the economy, on a very broad level, but, more importantly, in understanding the economy from a strategic level for any business out there. I think when someone comes to us, they always come to us with a research question. And, we’re economists by trade, we have our little economist toolbox. And one of the tools that we have in our toolbox is obviously census data. We combine census data with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and really try to bring all those sources together to give community’s profiles or businesses or industries — profiles and so they can more readily identify the opportunities — where our comparative advantages might be, and where we should invest in the future. It’s several things. We look at markets. We look at trends and we’re doing forecasts. So, the breadth of the Census data whether it’d be retail sales or the Economic Census or a Census of Housing, a Census of Manufacturing; all of that is in my— is in my swing zone.

Why a business decides to work in one area and locate in one area where the workers are educated in a certain way, where they can get access to certain things. They don’t have that information without much of the Census information that supports it, that supports a lot of other economic research that cities and municipalities and states use in order attracting and making decisions about how to make business more friendly in that state. We may have a company from Sweden that wants to enter the U.S. economy. We’re trying to tell them, «If you’re going to enter the U.S., if you’re going to make an investment in the U.S., we want you to make the investment in Houston.» So, one of the things my organization does is we’ll make the case for Houston; we’ll try to show them the strength of the economy.

Try to show them the demographics. We’ll try to show them the amount of construction going on. And we get that sort of stuff from the Census Bureau’s website. We’re only as good as our tools and the economist’s tools are our statistics. And if we don’t have quality statistics, if we have unreliable statistics, we can’t do our jobs, we can’t inform business, we can’t inform policy. It’s really our job to translate those statistics into actionable items for decisions. Every five year Economic Census is critically important to us, as we look to see where we’ve been, and where we are going, as we keep in touch with our strategic plan’s goals, and look at how we are delivering individually. The data will tell us how we are changing as a community and will give our municipalities, both large and small, timely information that is essential for decision-making purposes.

It also gives our businesses a chance to see what industries are most popular, which are most showing economic growth. It gives the government a chance also to look towards economic development. It helps us plan. It helps us recruit. It helps us market. And it helps our communities take a stock or assessment of where they actually are. As the businesses fill out the survey, I think they can feel extremely comfortable as they give us their information with respect to revenues and their payroll and information. That they can feel extremely comfortable that by law it will be held in confidence. This information is protected. It’s not subject to individual release by companies. It’s really important to folks around the world because it’s a global economy now. As they make business selections, whether it’s to move or grow or to add to an existing platform in a state, not just North Carolina, in any state in America.

You’ve got to have some data to make your decisions and you want unbiased data. It’s important for policy makers to be able to plan. It’s important for economic development and recruitment efforts on behalf of our state. It tells us where some strengths and where some weaknesses are. You know, the information we get from the Census allows us to really understand exactly what revenues we will have.

The success of any government is driven by private businesses. And those businesses based on their economic activity pay taxes and fees. And knowing exactly the strength of our businesses will allow me to determine what type of schools we’ll have, what type of health care system we can provide, just overall governmental services. This is important. Please fill out the forms. Please send the information back in. I encourage each and every business to comply with the law and fill out the forms they receive this October because it helps their businesses in terms of how they can grow, but also helps us in our economic development efforts. It’s good for business. It’s good for small towns. But the good news is, it’s good for America.

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