The Spatial Story...

Timothy Oliver | Director, Horry County Government
Timothy Oliver | Director, Horry County Government

Timothy Oliver | Director, Horry County Government

“Location, Location, Location” has always been the mantra for real estate. Never before has location data been so important to business operations as now. The combination of “who I am” my interests, internet searches and purchases with “where I am or have been” has been leveraged to deepen the multi-million-dollar pockets of big business. The public sector has been slow to jump on the data analytics bandwagon.

Local government data is highly sought after by private sector businesses as the foundation for corporate business analysis and decisions. Streets, parcels, imagery, ownership and permit information are regarded as core datasets maintained by local governments and requested by the private sector.

Horry County SC has made a strategic shift in its approach to data and analytics. The development of it’s new app, allows the county to begin building profile specific datasets for informed decision making. The new app provides mutual benefits. The citizen is able to provide specific location information, where they live or own property. As part of their profile they also subscribe to feeds of interests (crime statistics, building permit information, planning and zoning hearings and Recreational programs.) This combination of where I am and my interests provides a powerful tool set in understanding needs and concerns to be addressed at a spatial level. Additionally, visitor info provided from the app, adds another dimension to the analysis. No longer just property owner data, but data provided by visitors who download and use the app for “explore Horry” features is analyzed for trends.

The power for analysis significantly increases when coupled with publicly available data sets. Demographic data, lifestyle data, cell phone or beacon data, combined with interests and profiles from the County App begin to provide an abundance of information for decision making. Visitor data is a powerful tool when looking at hospitality tax revenues paid to the county, crime statistics, and origination information for visitors.

Analysis shows that while hospitality revenues over the entire county are stable or increasing, some submarkets are “carrying” markets that seem to be declining. Diving into the declining submarkets, property values, crime statistics, room rates, all paint a picture of an entire area in need of a facelift. When such local data is then compared to location of origin from cell phones of visitors to those particular submarkets, it identifies a correlation between the income levels of visitors coming to those areas compared to other areas. This data analysis then can be used by decision makers as they look for ways to provide incentives and programs to increase the quality of the destination locations, thereby increasing rates/revenues. Some of these programs also include the reduction of crime and the public perception of visitors to these areas. While none of the solutions are short term, without addressing them, the areas and revenues could continue to see further declines. 

  Visitor data is a powerful tool when looking at hospitality tax revenues paid to the county, crime statistics, and origination information for visitors 

Property owner data provides different results. Twenty percent (20%) of the property owners are out of county owners. App data regarding subscription feeds for these property owners identifies what is most important to property owners. Since the profiles are neighborhood based, analysis can provide decision makers with what is most important to local property owners versus absentee property owners. This also varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Crime statistics are high on the list, but local residents are also interested/concerned with development and permits which directly impacttraffic and other concerns.

The conclusion of the matter is as always, location, location, location. BUT, the value of “who I am” along with the “where I am” and “where I have been” cannot be under estimated. While the private sector has been leveraging the “profile” data for some time and have exploited the data to their financial benefit. It is time for local governments not only to begin to collect jurisdiction specific “profile” data but use it to their benefit. This data’s value does not represent a financial boom to the jurisdiction, but the value in decision making is immense. Understanding the movements of people, their concerns and interests provides a spring board for decision making. Putting limited funds to use providing the biggest benefit to its constituents be they residents or visitors. Tax increases at the local level and the imposition of additional fees can only go so far in providing the revenue stream to operate. More efficient operations, proactive spending rather than reactive spending is what will set one jurisdiction apart from another. As more and more constituents become more and more tech savvy, their expectations of the capabilities of local government increases.

GIS technology has always been about the data. Recent advances in compute power and focus on operational dashboards, the ability to process inordinate amounts of data from multiple sources has providedthe impetus for understanding the data. The prolific use of mobile devices and the EXPECTATIONS of consumers for APP level access to services provides forward thinking local governments the ability to consume the data for their benefit. The ability to see the data spatially versus in a spreadsheet or chart has the power to change decisions. Government is not like the titanic business profiting from the petabytes of data that is spatially referenced. Government SHOULD think, act and benefit from the data consumed and generated in their jurisdictions. Geographically is the only way to analyze, understand and benefit from such data. Spatial visualizations of government data combined with private sector data tells a story like no other. Decision makers need to listen to the story and visualize the picture being painted by the spatial data. 

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