Staying Ahead of the Data Curve

July 23, 2021

The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) data tools are a best kept secret at Purdue. PCRD data tools present a variety of socioeconomic information for individual counties in Indiana as well as regions that are members of the Indiana Association of Regional Councils (IARC). In so doing, PCRD supports its mission of engagement within Indiana and serves as the designated Indiana’s university center for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

Typically, we think of ‘data’ as a static resource; numbers lying flat on a page. But when the Purdue Center for Regional Development arrays data graphically on a map and layers and juxtaposes different data sources, suddenly the numbers ‘come alive’ and tell stories for decision-makers.

Lee Lewellen
President and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Association

In addition, PCRD engages with other centers such as Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) and state agencies such as the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) to present custom data on specific topics. The data tools cover a variety of topics ranging from the digital divide, poverty, housing, demographics, industry and occupation clusters to data about military service members, veterans, and their families.

As the EDA’s University Center in Indiana, PCRD has developed an online data dashboard to guide the economic development activities of IARC regions. Some of these regions are the designated economic development districts, and a few have the designation of a metropolitan planning organization. These regions use the tool and other data from PCRD to develop their comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS) and planning documents for regional economic development.

PCRD maintains custom definitions and data for industry and occupation clusters focusing on economic competitiveness and knowledge-based economy for the U.S. The IARC data dashboard presents information on the competitiveness of the regional economies, a required element in the CEDS planning process.

Indraneel Kumar
PCRD Principal Regional Planner

The dashboard showcases a core set of indicators on each of the 16 IARC member regions, including industry clusters, occupation clusters, population features, labor market indicators, broadband speeds, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs, income and poverty measures, and more. The dashboard makes extensive use of Tableau for data visualization and allows users to copy images to include in reports and presentations.

IARC Executive Director, Brian Long commented, “With the IARC Data Dashboard, PCRD has provided Indiana Regional Councils an invaluable tool in identifying and verifying issues and problems within their respective regions. This information has been used to secure funding through grant and other resources to address those problems identified. In the future, as the Data Dashboard is updated, the Regional Councils can monitor the impact of their efforts in addressing specific issues.”

PCRD also provides county data snap shots as story-maps for each of the 92 counties in Indiana. These snap shots highlight a variety of demographic, economic and labor market information that local leaders, community organizations and others can use to gain a better perspective on current conditions and opportunities in their counties. The majority areas of interest include a county’s demography, economy, labor market, broadband, and quality of life, but the report has more than 35 select variables and indicators that are available for the user.

Developed originally in partnership with Purdue Extension and the Extension Community Development program, the snaps shots present a variety of public and subscription-based data that are not easily available on the public domain. These data are often used for grant applications and in local decision making. The snap shots also include simplified socioeconomic analysis and interpretation of the major findings for each section.

The snap shot data are derived from a variety of public and proprietary data sources that include the U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Modeling Specialists, International (EMSI), YourEconomy, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Center for Neighborhood Technology Housing and Transportation (CNT H+T), American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), StatsIndiana, OnTheMap, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), PCRD, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS).

PCRD is a must-have for the toolkit of anyone who needs to understand the Indiana economic and social landscapes. The value is twofold: information covers multiple years so one can study trends, and the data is comprehensive, covering everything from connectivity to demographics and economic metrics. The information presented is objective, current, and curated in meaningful ways. What I appreciate most about the PCRD tools are the visual representation of the data, ability to customize the data set, and capability to download reports.

Cristina Farmus
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Dean of Engineering