Research department takes EDCUtah to new heights

While working on a new economic development plan, community leaders in the City of South Ogden needed help with a location quotient analysis and an economic overview of the city, so they turned to EDCUtah’s Research Department for assistance.

EDCUtah Research Manager Matt Hilburn explains that a location quotient analysis (LQ) measures the concentration of employment within a particular industry in a specific location. “For example, an LQ of 1.0 means the amount of employment in the industry is consistent with the national average,” he says, “and an LQ above 1.25 indicates the area has a competitive advantage, with a higher density of employment in that industry than the national average.

“For South Ogden, we looked at the LQ of nearly 500 sub-industries that are represented in the city and helped city leaders identify which industries had the largest location quotients, employment, historical growth and projected growth,” he continues.

An economic overview, on the other hand, analyzes important data that a community should know to best understand its strengths and weaknesses. Overview data includes:

  • Demographic Profile
  • Employment Trends
  • Unemployment Rate Trends
  • Wage Trends
  • Industry Snapshot
  • Occupation Snapshot
  • Industry Clusters
  • Educational Levels

The overviews also help cities and counties produce the answers to questions that site selectors and companies often ask when considering a location for an expansion or relocation project.

Armed with the LQ analysis and economic overview, South Ogden’s leaders now have a baseline of industry concentration within the city, a roadmap to focus on for local expansion and corporate recruitment efforts and the economic data that businesses and site selectors want so they can make educated relocation or expansion decisions.

“If you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses, how can you develop an economic plan?” asks Hilburn. “EDCUtah’s Research Department is ready to help communities and counties profile their economic environments and answer the questions they need to know to be effective in their economic development efforts.”

Helping cities like South Ogden and businesses with their custom research data needs is fundamental to EDCUtah’s mission, but before 2015, research requests weren’t in as much demand. In fact, before 2015 the organization experienced a negative trend for research requests. However, since 2015 the number of research requests have increased at a significant rate.

In 2016, the research team completed 641 research requests, with 81.5 percent of those requests coming from the private sector and 18.5 percent coming from the public sector. Hilburn says year-over-year monthly research requests have increased every month over the last two years, with the exceptions of April and October, 2016.

Meanwhile, February of 2016 was the busiest month for research requests in EDCUtah’s recorded history, with a total of 76 completed requests. February 2016 also experienced the largest increase year-over-year, when the research team completed 48 more requests than the previous February. Requests per workday have increased 266 percent.

In addition to fulfilling custom research requests and producing research to support EDCUtah’s data needs, for the past two years the Research Department has been producing an impressive amount of standard collateral, including the creation of the new Utah Business & Economic (B&E) profile and eight industry profiles that were compiled, designed and published by the end of 2016. But that’s not all. The team has also produced some landmark research projects that have become essential tools in EDCUtah’s research library. They include:

  • Site Selector Perception Study
  • Investor Sentiment Study
  • Quarterly Investor Update Study
  • 50×50 Tool and Research Brief
  • Business Retention Study for Salt Lake City
  • Site Selector Focus Group Study

For the year ahead, the research team has laid out another aggressive research agenda, with plans to produce three mini industry profiles – FinTech, Data Centers, and Call Centers; a company executive study comprising interviews with executives of companies that either chose to do business in Utah or declined; a Utah talent study analyzing the state’s workforce; updates to the nine industry profiles; an industry expert list, and specific project studies.

Hilburn says over the next year the team also plans to roll out a more robust research database and enhanced research tools that will allow for process improvements and more advanced data analysis and aggregation.

“We are processing research much more quickly and seeing an incredible amount of data funneled through our research department,” adds Flynn. “I believe we have one of the most talented, effective economic development research teams in the country. Certainly, it is the strongest it has ever been in the 30-year history of our organization.”

With 24 project wins to date, EDCUtah is on the cusp of another record-setting year for jobs created and retained. Flynn believes EDCUtah’s research team has played a huge role in those project wins and he expects the team’s research will be integral to the organization’s economic development success going forward as the organization rolls out major initiatives like the Mega Sites program and increases its sophistication in market research and analysis.

“We are on our way to becoming one of the highest performing economic development organizations in the country, and our research is a big part of that,” he concludes.