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KEDA Members Learn About Geographic Database System

HOUGHTON, MI – The Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) wrapped up this year’s KEDA monthly breakfast meetings on November 7, with a presentation entitled: Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Essential Infrastructure for Economic Development by Dr. Don Lafreniere, Director, Geospatial Research Facility and Associate Professor of Geography and GIS, Michigan Technological University and Dr. Brad Barnett, Regional Planner with the Western U.P. Planning & Development Region

According to Lafreniere, GIS is the aggregation of many types of data into a system that uses mapping as the organizing platform. GIS often includes property data (parcels lines, ownership, taxable value, acreage, property identification numbers, etc.), roads, natural features, zoning, aerial imagery, utilities, recreation infrastructure, and other data that the users define. The goal is to provide multiple layers of information that can be accessed from a map and used to make data-driven decisions related to a particular geographic area.

Economic development decision making relies heavily on a host of information that can be contained in a Geographic Information System. State and local economic development organizations assisting companies looking for new locations, real estate developers looking for commercial or residential sites, potential residents looking at the area, and local governments managing the region’s infrastructure all benefit by having a publicly available, web-accessible GIS platform. Publicly available, web accessible GIS not only helps those looking at our area in making decisions on locations, but allows KEDA and others to provide timely, accurate, professional responses to site inquiries and grant applications for financing development related infrastructure.

“Building a publicly available, web-accessible GIS platform not only improves public and private operational efficiency, but allows the community to access data and development tools to target economic and community development.” Said Dr. Lafreniere. “We have the ability to create more accurate and updated data, critical to good development that is at everyone’s fingertips.”

In response to the question of what will it take for our region to have a publicly available, web accessible GIS, Lafreniere and Barnett indicated that all of the necessary data is available through existing open data initiatives at the state and federal level. This data can be combined with local parcel and property assessment data, public utility locations, zoning, special districts (downtown development, historic, industrial development, etc.) to form a base system that can be built on. MTU’s Geospatial Research Facility and WUPPDR have the expertise, technology, and human resources to build and manage the system for our region. However, County government approval for the use of the parcel information is required.

“We live in the information age, where our competition is global, and information is key to making decisions and investments.” Said Jeff Ratcliffe, KEDA’s executive director. “We have the resources with MTU and WUPPDR to put in place a GIS platform so we can compete; we only need the buy in from our local governments to make this happen.”

KEDA Member Meeting breakfasts are offered monthly with different topics and presenters each month. Breakfasts are held at the Finnish American Heritage Center. To learn more visit www.kedabiz.com.

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