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IU Northwest professors unveil new regional economic development tool


GIS software that transformed the way police departments address crime can also be used in business

Wednesday Sep 02, 2015


Leaders representing municipalities across Lake County convened at Indiana University Northwest in August to learn how they can leverage geographic information systems (GIS) software to enhance economic development in Northwest Indiana.

A similar approach, by which law enforcement agencies began joining the Northwest Indiana Public Safety Data Consortium (NWIPSDC) over the past two years, has seen unprecedented success and has transformed the way crime is addressed in the region. IU Northwest experts say this same tool can be used to enhance economic development in the region.

To accomplish this, School of Business Professors Subir Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D. and Ranjan Kini, Ph.D., are collaborating with Associate Professor Joseph Ferrandino, Ph.D., who spearheaded the NWIPSDC and the resulting Regional Crime Reports, housed on the website of the Northwest Indiana Times.

The professors met with key officials in Lake County municipalities to demonstrate how to begin a similar collaborative data-sharing tool to help boost economic development.

“This tool can help local officials make decisions relating to business and economic development, provide marketing support for existing businesses of all sizes, provide information to potential businesses that would like to invest in a facility in Northwest Indiana, and enhance the capabilities of current town and city employees in providing relevant data,” said Bandyopadhyay.

Rick Ryfa, council president for the Town of Griffith, is excited to be among the first to get on board with this new application of a proven tool. He says the town is ramping up its efforts with regard to economic development and is excited about the opportunity to take advantage of the resources this tool will provide.

To cite one example of how this might work, Ryfa said, “Currently we are in process of marketing vacant properties, including the former golf course on Cline Avenue. Using the data provided, we’ll be able to show potential new investors the current business climate, and socioeconomic data not just in Griffith, but the surrounding areas, which will help in their decision-making.”

Ryfa said he is confident that this endeavor, while still in its infancy, will prove to be well worth the effort.

Officials learned how this tool can be applied based on the data available about Munster, Ind. The application contains query-based information on existing businesses, parcels, address points, police calls, road traffic counts, zoning and other criteria ranging from retail sales by census block group, Facebook users, healthcare markets and other data that is critical to the business community and economic development. The application includes the ability to analyze, filter, sort and layer information that is not currently available in one format or one place.

Ultimately, the experts hope to build a data-sharing consortium among the business community that can be used by leaders to make smart business decisions that will benefit the economic health of the entire region.

“Law enforcement agencies in the region have used this tool with great success,” Ferrandino said. “They’ve learned that knowledge of what is happening across their own borders helps them make decisions that benefit the entire region as a whole and not just their own agency. This same approach can help not only individual businesses thrive, but can spur economic development throughout Northwest Indiana.”

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