Home BusinessEconomic News Data Driven Investing in America: New Tools Help Advance Regionally Focused Economic Development in Washington State and Beyond

Data Driven Investing in America: New Tools Help Advance Regionally Focused Economic Development in Washington State and Beyond

by Stella Morgan

New Tools Provide One-Stop Sources for Data

In today’s data-driven world, having access to accurate and timely information is crucial for making informed decisions. However, for many organizations, especially those in poor countries or small planning entities, obtaining high-quality data can be a challenge. Recognizing this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has collaborated with the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to develop new tools that provide a one-stop source for data.

According to a report by Brookings in 2018, the absence of high-quality, accessible data is a central development problem in most poor countries. Data that only provide national averages often conceal more than they reveal, especially in a world with unequal distributions of income, wealth, and environmental risks. In order to tackle this problem, EDA, in collaboration with Argonne data scientists and economists, aims to set a new standard for evidence-based, data-driven economic development.

One of the recently launched tools is the Economic Development Capacity Index (EDCI), which aggregates data from more than 50 economic indicators to determine a region’s economic development capacity compared to the rest of the nation. EDCI provides a snapshot view of a region’s economic capacity in areas such as human capital, finance, industry composition, infrastructure, and institutional support.

Another tool developed by Argonne is the National Economic Resilience Data Explorer (NERDE), a web-based tool that centralizes a range of publicly available data about local and regional economic conditions. NERDE includes information on economic distress, demographics, industry clusters, and the impact of COVID-19 on local economies. Data is provided at both the county and Economic Development District (EDD) levels and is updated monthly.

These tools, according to Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, bring together a broad range of data sources to help communities identify their economic development strengths and opportunities for growth.

One real-world example of how NERDE has been used is by the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments (COG), an EDA-designated Economic Development District (EDD) in Southwest Washington state. The council, responsible for a range of regional services, was in the process of updating their Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). During this process, they faced the challenge of finding detailed facts and figures that point to the region’s needs.

NERDE came to their rescue by providing reliable, local data in an easily accessible format. The COG used the tool to develop their CEDS evaluation framework and conducted a gap analysis between EDD-level unemployment, income, educational attainment, and poverty rates and the national averages for those measures. This data helped them make informed decisions and prioritize their development goals.

Bill Fashing, the executive director of the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum COG, expressed his appreciation for the tool, stating that having a one-stop source for data like NERDE saves time and provides the research capacity needed for their development efforts. He also sees more opportunities for using NERDE in the future.

Access to reliable and granular data is vital for effective economic development, especially in underserved communities. The collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory and EDA is a step towards addressing the data gap problem. With the availability of tools like EDCI and NERDE, decision-makers and organizations can now have easier access to the data they need to drive economic growth and development.

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